cranberry bean minestrone

4    |   
Prep Time:
20 minutes    |   
Cook Time:
40 minutes

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minestrone bread ribollita

When fresh cranberry beans (also called borlotti, see the photo below) are in season, it’s time to make a pot of minestrone. The beans are a thing of beauty, with their paint-splattered look. If you want to make the soup when the beans are not in season, use canned, drained cannellini. Stir them in towards the end, when you add the zucchini.

fresh cranberry beans, aka borlotti


1 pound cranberry beans
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 large carrot, chopped
2 ounces chopped pancetta or ham, optional
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 cups chicken broth
1 bunch Swiss chard
kosher salt
2 small zucchini, chopped
handful of fresh basil leaves, chopped, OR 1 tablespoon pesto (purchased or homemade)

to finish
extra-virgin olive oil
grated parmesan cheese


Shell the beans. Rinse and drain beans and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a 4- to 6-quart pan or soup pot and add the onion, carrot, and pancetta or ham, if using. Cook, stirring, until vegetables soften, about 3 minutes. Add the shelled beans and thyme, then pour in the broth and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, trim withered ends off chard stems; rinse chard and stack leaves. Cut lengthwise down the middle of leaves and stems, then crosswise into strips. Add to the pot with a good pinch of salt, cover again, and simmer for 20 minutes or until beans are done (to test, squeeze a bean gently between two fingers; it should collapse, but not be mushy). Stir in zucchini and cook 5 minutes more.

Turn off heat under the pot and stir in the basil or pesto; let soup sit for 5 to 10 minutes, then season to taste with salt. Ladle into bowls and drizzle each portion with a little extra-virgin olive oil and a dusting of parmesan.