Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup

Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup | A Sweet SpoonfulYesterday’s plan was to make this simple Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup for dinner. Not a crazy plan to execute. Very doable, in fact. I shopped for the ingredients in the morning, and planned to start the soup before picking Oliver up from daycare, looking forward to him proclaiming “ZUPA!” (his word for “soup”) like a merry Italian grandfather when he walked in the door. The reality was my kid ate a hot dog, cherry tomatoes and string cheese for dinner; Sam and I had ramen, and I finally got around to tackling this soup around 9 p.m. when the house was quiet. So it goes.

On my drive to Portland a few weeks ago, I realized I’d forgotten to write Oliver’s second birthday letter. When he was a baby, I’d decided I wanted to write him a letter on the day of each birthday, compiling them to give to him when he turns eighteen. In his first birthday letter, I wrote about the weather, what we did that day, all about his party and who came, and how we were all feeling. A snapshot of the day and our family: November 18, 2016. Well, November 18, 2017 – his two year birthday – came and went and in late January I realized it and started crying at a gas station on the outskirts of Olympia. The whole point was to write the letter on the day! Not when I got around to it. Not when I felt like it. Not two months later.

I sat down that weekend in my Airbnb and wrote Oliver his second birthday letter. I opened by apologizing profusely for being late, for no longer being able to remember the minute details of the day. But then after reading and re-reading it over and over, I erased all of that. Instead, I explained to him that mom and dad are busy, working for themselves trying to make a good life for him. And sometimes that means there is a hot dog for dinner instead of “ZUPA,” and other times it means your birthday letter may be penned a little late. Or a lot late. But it will always make it into the keepsake box eventually, and we have a hot bowl of soup on tap for tonight’s dinner. We carry on.

Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup | A Sweet Spoonful

This soup is from Pretty Simple Cooking, the new cookbook by my friends, Alex and Sonja Overhiser (of A Couple Cooks). The book is vegetarian and comprised of really doable, enticing, vibrant food with an encouraging and welcoming tone –just what we all need to roll up our sleeves in February (for me, often a tough month for culinary inspiration). I have quite a few recipes bookmarked including a creamy millet bake with greens and leeks, some simple strawberry lime chia jam, and a crazy-delicious looking skillet cookie.

But I decided to start with the Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup as it looked really simple to pull together, humble in nature, yet comforting and filling. We often have cooked whole grains in our fridge (I like to cook them on the weekend and use them in soups, salads, and scrambles throughout the week), so I decided to fold in a cup of farro at the end, making each bowl of soup a real-deal meal. I think Sonja and Alex would approve. Have a great week out there, friends. Stay warm; carry on.

Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup

Tuscan White Bean and Fennel Soup

  • Yield: Serves 6
  • Prep time: 20 mins
  • Cook time: 20 mins
  • Total time: 40 mins

A true winter soup, each bowl boasts chunky tomatoes, tender beans, and nutrient-packed kale. If you wanted to use chard instead, I think that’d be great and Alex and Sonja recommend San Marzano tomatoes if you can find them. I added an onion to the soup as we had a lot leftover from our CSA delivery, and I folded in grains at the end, which is 100% optional and the soup is delicious with or without the addition. For kiddos with delicate or picky palettes, perhaps start light on the smoked paprika. A great recipe to double and freeze!

Ever so slightly adapted from Pretty Simple Cooking


1 fennel bulb
1 bunch Tuscan or Lacinato kale (about 8-12 ounces)
1 medium yellow onion, diced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced
2 15-ounce cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 28-ounce diced tomatoes
1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
1 bay leaf
1 quart (4 cups) vegetable broth (I use low-sodium)
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon kosher esalt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 cup leftover cooked grains (like farro or wheat berries), optional
Parmesan cheese, optional, to garnish (omit if you need recipe to remain vegan)


Remove the stems from the fennel bulb and cut off any tough parts from the bottom of the root, then dice the remaining bulb. De-stem the kale by holding the leaf at the lowest part of the stem and pulling back to tear the leaf away from the stem, then roughly chop the leaves.

In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the fennel and onion and saute for 4-5 minutes, until translucent but not browned. Reduce the heat to medium, add the garlic, and continue to cook for 30 seconds.

Carefully add both cans of tomatoes and their juices, then add the bay leaf and simmer for 5 minutes.

Add the vegetable broth and cannellini beans and bring to a boil. Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and add the kale, red pepper flakes, basil, smoked paprika, kosher salt and several grinds of black pepper. Simmer until the kale is tender, about 5 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf, then taste and adjust flavors as necessary. Fold in cooked grains, if desired. To serve, top with Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, if desired.


  1. Rachel

    Well said- we pick up and move on and know that we are loving our children to our fullest even if it isn’t perfect or exactly as planned. This “Zupa” looks amazing and I may never call soup any other name again

    1. megang

      Thanks, Rachel :)

  2. Sonja

    We absolutely approve of adding farro ! Excellent addition, we wouldn't expect any less. THANK YOU so, so much for this very kind review of the book. The soup looks outstanding and Alex and I both LOVE the photography (can we steal it to go in the book)? Thank you again friend -- this TRULY means the world! And we are so happy to feature a take on your toasted oatmeal in Pretty Simple Cooking -- you've changed our breakfast game forever!

  3. Corrie

    Love your recipe. I made this last night for dinner and it was delicious. I added a bit more of smoked paprika than you used and was really surprised with the result. It came out so good. I am gonna try adding farro next time. Loved every bit of this "Zupa". Your letter plan for Oliver is so cute. Lots of love to him.
    Thank you

    1. megang

      Thanks, Corrie! So glad you enjoyed the recipe. We ended up freezing some, and giving it to some friends who just had a baby and now I'm craving it again, so will likely make another batch this week. Thanks for taking the time to leave a comment! Have a great week.

  4. Pavla

    Yum! I'll definitely try this, probably with some brown rice folded in. I love the idea of the fennel in it. I totally related to your story about the letters to Oliver.. I have a notebook on my desk for each of my kids where I write them letters and I used to try to write things on the day they happened... Until I missed too many! Now it just happens when it happens. Foy my son, I still have to write to him about breaking his arm (almost a year ago now!), starting kindergarten (uh, last August) and so much more. Like you said, we carry on - love it.

  5. Sabrina

    just what I was looking for, especially feeling like pre-sickness coming on, so thank you for this recipe, and by all means give yourself a break about the birthday letter! It will all even out over the years, best to you!

Join the Discussion

Winter Comfort Food

Winter Morning Porridge

Winter Morning Porridge

I intended on baking holiday cookies to share with you today, but when I sat down to brainstorm all I could think about, truly, was the morning porridge I've been making and how that's really what I wanted to send you away with. The holiday season always seems to zoom on by at its own clip with little regard for how most of us wish it would just slow down, and this year feels like no exception. We got our tree last week and I've been making a point to sit in the living room and admire the twinkle as much as possible. I have lofty goals of snowflakes and gingerbread men and stringing cranberries and popcorn, but I'm also trying to get comfortable with the fact that everything may not get done, and that sitting amongst the twinkle is really the most important. That and a warm breakfast before the day spins into gear. This multi-grain porridge has proved to be a saving grace on busy weekday mornings, and it reheats beautifully so I've been making a big pot and bringing it to work with some extra chopped almonds and fresh pomegranate seeds. While cookies are certainly on the horizon, I think I'll have this recipe to thank for getting us through the busy days ahead. 

Read More
Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

Minestrone Verde with White Beans and Pesto

We returned home from San Francisco on New Years Eve just in time for dinner, and craving greens -- or anything other than baked goods and pizza (ohhhh San Francisco, how I love your bakeries. And citrus. And winter sunshine).  Instead of driving straight home, we stopped at our co-op where I ran in for some arugula, an avocado, a bottle of Prosecco, and for the checkout guys to not-so-subtly mock the outlook of our New Years Eve: rousing party, eh? They looked to be in their mid-twenties and I figured I probably looked ancient to them, sad even. But really, there wasn't much sad (or rousing, to be fair) about our evening: putting Oliver to bed, opening up holiday cards and hanging them in the kitchen, and toasting the New Year with arugula, half a quesadilla and sparkling wine. It wasn't lavish. But it's what we both needed. (Or at least what we had to work with.) Since then, I've been more inspired to cook lots of "real" food versus all of the treats and appetizers and snacks the holidays always bring on. I made Julia Turshen's curried red lentils for the millionth time, a wintry whole grain salad with tuna and fennel, roasted potatoes, and this simple green minestrone that I've taken for lunch this week. Determined to fit as many seasonal vegetables into a bowl as humanly possible, I spooned a colorful pesto on top, as much for the reminder of warmer days to come as for the accent in the soup (and for the enjoyment later of slathering the leftover pesto on crusty bread).

Read More
Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard

Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard

If I asked you about what you like to cook at home when the week gets busy, I'm willing to bet it might be something simple. While there are countless websites and blogs and innumerable resources to find any kind of recipe we may crave, it's often the simple, repetitive dishes that we've either grown up with or come to love that call to us when cooking (or life in general) seems overwhelming or when we're feeling depleted. While my go-to is typically breakfast burritos or whole grain bowls, this Curried Cauliflower Couscous with Chickpeas and Chard would make one very fine, very doable house meal on rotation. The adaptations are endless, and its made from largely pantry ingredients. I never thought I'd hop on the cauliflower "rice" bandwagon, but I have to say after making it a few times, I get the hype. 

Read More
Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

Thai Carrot, Coconut and Cauliflower Soup

People describe raising young kids as a particular season in life. I hadn't heard this until we had a baby, but it brought me a lot of comfort when I'd start to let my mind wander, late at night between feedings, to fears that we'd never travel internationally again or have a sit-down meal in our dining room. Would I ever eat a cardamom bun in Sweden? Soak in Iceland? I loved the heck out of our tiny Oliver, but man what had we done?! Friends would swoop in and reassure us that this was just a season, a blip in the big picture of it all. They promised we'd likely not even remember walking around the house in circles singing made-up songs while eating freezer burritos at odd hours of the day (or night). And it's true.

Oliver is turning two next month, and those all-encompassing baby days feel like a different time, a different Us. In many ways, dare I say it, Toddlerhood actually feels a bit harder. Lately Oliver has become extremely opinionated about what he will and will not wear -- and he enforces these opinions with fervor. Don't get near the kid with a button-down shirt. This week at least. He's obsessed with his rain boots and if it were up to him, he'd keep them on at all times, especially during meals. He insists on ketchup with everything (I created a damn monster), has learned the word "trash" and insists on throwing found items away on his own that really, truly are not trash. I came to pick him up from daycare the other day and he was randomly wearing a bike helmet -- his teacher mentioned he'd had it on most of the day and really, really didn't want to take it off. The kid has FEELINGS. I love that about him, and wouldn't want it any other way. But, man it's also exhausting.

Read More
Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta

Butternut Squash Lasagna with Sage Tofu Ricotta

We recently had our favorite day of married life yet. When I tell you what it consisted of, you may worry or chuckle. Sundays used to be sacred in our house in the sense that it was our one day off together. We'd often read the paper, get a slice of quiche at Cafe Besalu, or take walks around Greenlake or Discovery Park. But now Sundays are generally when I work the farmers market for Marge Granola, and Sam helps me set up and take down each week, so they've taken on a very different feel, one more of work than leisure. So a few months ago, after mildly panicking that we no longer had any routines or days off, we reclaimed Saturdays as 'the new Sunday' and last weekend set the bar pretty high. The day began really cold: in the high 20's and graduated, eventually, to the 30's. We decided it'd be nice to just stay inside; Sam had a little work to do and some letters to write. He had a few articles he'd been wanting to read. And I'd been thinking about this lasagna recipe, so I puttered around the kitchen roasting squash and slicing garlic. The afternoon ticked on slowly. Sam made us baked eggs for a late lunch and I tried unsuccessfully to nap. I think it was the calmest we'd both felt in a long time. I'm lucky to have found a man who loves spending time at home as much as I do. While we both love going out to see friends, traveling, and having people over to our place, we also gain the most, I'd say, by doing simple things around the house -- straightening up, making a meal. organizing records or books or photos.  Especially in this season of cold temperatures and early-darkening skies, it's what I crave the most. And last Saturday closed in the best of ways: we opened a bottle of "wedding wine" (thanks to my neurosis and fear we'd run out, we over-ordered wine when planning for our wedding) and dug into generous slices of this very special vegetarian lasagna, a hearty layered affair with caramelized onions, a sage-flecked tofu ricotta and a simple, savory butternut squash purée.

Read More