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Recipe from Sober Celebrations
Here's a quick version of a delicious Tuscan soup that's perfect for a cooking-club night. No soaking of beans is required, so preparation is straightforward and swift. Lots of fresh garlic and sage will complement the variety of beans, while a dollop of freshly made pesto added on top just before serving will provide a classic restaurant touch.
   A hand-held immersion blender is the ideal piece of equipment to bring the soup together with a few quick pulses at the end. Alternative methods are to remove about 3 cups of the soup and puree it in a food processor or blender and return it to the pot, or simply use a potato masher to break down some of the beans. A pesto garnish such as the one used here, also known as a pistou, is commonly added to bean and vegetable soups, as well as minestrone, for heightened flavor in both Italian and French cooking. A bowl of freshly grated Parmesan can be offered at the table for guests to sprinkle in their bowls. Serve piping hot and don't forget the crusty bread.
Serves 8


• 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
• 2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped
• Salt and pepper to taste
• 5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
• 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves
• 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
• One 16-ounce can each cannellini beans, Roman beans (or light kidney beans), black-eyed peas, and butter beans (or large limas), drained and rinsed
• 1 cup canned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

• 3 garlic cloves, peeled
• 3 cups packed, fresh basil leaves
• Pinch of salt
• 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
• 3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
• Freshly ground pepper

Heat the oil and butter in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the onions, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and saute until the onions are soft and translucent, about 12 minutes. Reduce the heat, if necessary, to prevent browning. Add the garlic and sage and saute a further minute. Add the broth and all the beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally for 15 minutes.

2. Remove the pot from the heat and using a hand-held immersion blender or other method (see recipe introduction), partially blend the soup to break down some of the beans. Taste for the addition of salt and pepper and thin, if necessary, with more broth or water.

3. Make the pesto by finely chopping the garlic, basil, and salt together in a food processor fitted with a sharp blade. With the machine running on low, gradually add the olive oil to form a paste. Add the cheese and pulse to combine. Transfer to a small bowl and add freshly ground pepper. Taste for additional seasoning and set aside until ready to serve the soup.

4. Ladle the hot soup into warmed bowls, place a dollop of the pesto on top, and serve immediately with additional Parmesan cheese on the side.


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