This traditional Greek bean soup (fasolada) is considered by many to be the national dish of Greece and a staple in my house growing up. It is a simple and hearty soup, made with small white beans, a handful of vegetables and copious amounts of extra virgin olive oil.
As it is often the case with many Greek dishes that are meatless and based on legumes (beans, lentils or chickpeas), this recipe is a frugal and ingenious way to stretch a meal to feed a whole family. Once considered a poor man’s food, this dish and others like it are making a comeback, as they are now being highlighted as the cornerstones of the healthy Mediterranean diet.
The traditional way to prepare this soup is using good quality white dry beans and soaking them overnight. Do not try to substitute canned beans in this recipe. It takes some time for the beans and the vegetables to simmer and the flavors to develop, but this recipe is mostly hands off. The result will be a robust, delicious and nutritious soup, that will warm up your soul on a cold fall or winter night. Serve it with marinated Kalamata olives, a chunk of good, sharp Greek Feta cheese, maybe a simple spread, and–as always–with some good crusty bread!
- 8 oz. dried Navy or Cannellini beans
- 6 cups of fresh water
- 1 sm. red onion, chopped
- 2 med. celery stalks (with their leaves), thickly sliced
- 2 med. carrots, thickly sliced
- 2 med. garlic cloves, minced
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 large bay leaves
- 1½ cups tomato passata, like Pomi (or thick crushed tomatoes)
- 1 TBSP. tomato paste
- 1 med. Yukon gold potato, cubed
- ½ tsp. dried Greek oregano
- ¾-1 tsp. sea salt
- --- freshly ground pepper
- --- red pepper flakes
- 1-2 TBSP. vinegar
- ⅓ cup extra virgin Greek olive oil
- Pick over and rinse the beans, discard malformed or stone-like ones. Soak the beans for at least 8 hours or overnight (preferably).
- The next morning, drain and rinse the beans. Place them in a large pot with just enough fresh water to cover them. Bring to a boil. You will notice that white foam will rise to the surface of the water. Remove it with a spoon and then drain the beans in a colander. (This step is necessary to get rid of the impurities and it also makes the beans much easier on your stomach!)
- Place the beans back in the pot with the six cups of fresh water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and simmer for about 30 minutes. While the beans cook, prep the vegetables.
- Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic, ⅓ cup of olive oil and bay leaves to the pot. Simmer, partially covered for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Next, add the tomatoes, tomato paste, potato and the seasoning. Cover the pot partially and continue simmering for about 30 minutes more, or, until the beans are very tender and the soup is thick and creamy (*see note). Check to see if a little more liquid is needed, and if it does add a little warm water. The consistency of the soup should be thick.
- Just before removing from the heat, discard the bay leaves and stir in the vinegar and the remaining ⅓ cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust the seasoning.
- Serve hot with some hearty bread, seasoned olives and Greek Feta cheese.
This soup is even more flavorful the next day. You can keep it in the refrigerator for 4 to 5 days, in an airtight container. Reheat the soup gently in a pan on the stovetop.
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