Venetian White Bean Soup with Guanciale is savory and warming with unexpected bursts of fruity sweetness, and comes together quickly in the Instant Pot. Affiliate links have been used to link to items I am discussing.
Oh the fallback time change. How I loathe it. Yes yes, it is wonderful to have an extra hour (one wonders what it might be like to regularly yet occasionally have an extra hour in your day!) but I hate the dark evenings. My sister disagrees with me, she likes the light in the morning for waking up but the way I see it is waking up sucks no matter what. Give me more light in the evening with my family!
And yes, give me more light for photographing food.
Light was not an issue for this Venetian White Bean Soup with Guanciale, as I made it a while ago but in very un-typical fashion decided to save it for sharing in the fall, when our thoughts turn to warming bean stews and the like. I actually made it in early spring, which is also a good time for this dish, but by the time I had caught up to it summer was here and no one wanted to hear about bean stew, no matter how delectable.
This dish was adapted from one shared in the always reliable Nigella Lawson’s Nigellissima: Easy Italian-Inspired Recipes: A Cookbook. And gosh that made her sound not very inspiring when the opposite is true–I always find something to inspire me in Nigella Lawson’s cookbooks. Always. Even when I don’t expect to, as with this Shrimp, Pineapple and Butternut Squash Curry for a Weeknight (speaking of excellent autumn dishes) in her Nigella Express: 130 Recipes for Good Food, Fast. So credit where it is due, you cannot go wrong with searching for dinner inspiration in a Nigella Lawson cookbook.
The biggest change I made to this recipe was substituting guanciale for pancetta. I want to explain my reasoning, because it may be you would prefer to use pancetta. First, I have no idea which would be more authentic in Venice (Lawson does not address her choice of pancetta one way or another). Guanciale tends to be a Roman specialty (also available here in Pittsburgh at Parma Sausage, a fact for which I will be eternally grateful), and truly I felt like we saw guanciale all throughout the south. I was sick the entire time we were in Venice and as a result I have no idea what would be more likely there, I just know that non-Italians tend to call for pancetta over guanciale in American cookbooks because it is so much easier to find, so I tend to freely substitute when I feel like it. And that brings me to my second point, which is (she says while ducking) I find pancetta kind of bland and uninspiring. If I had to make this dish without guanciale I think I would use good, smoky American bacon. Not because it is authentic but because it is delicious and adds a good punch of flavor the same way guanciale does with its black peppery bite. If you are curious my Pasta alla Gricia post discusses guanciale a bit more and this Serious Eats article does a good job of breaking down all of the fatty cured pork products.
What really drew me to this Venetian White Bean Soup with Guanciale were the raisins, and that is another reason I like the more assertive guanciale (or second choice American bacon), as a savory counterpoint to that pop of sweet. It is an unusual combination, the beans, cured pork and raisins, and it works beautifully. This was loved by everyone in the family and devoured pretty quickly.
A quick note: I used the Instant Pot for this and a multi-cooker definitely makes this an easy and fast dish. But I don’t want you to think you must have the fancy appliance–you could also just make the beans the day before or start early in the morning and finish the dish on the cooktop.
Adapted from Nigella Lawson. This recipe uses a multicooker like an instant Pot but also uses a sauté pan, taking advantage of the Indian method known as tadka to spend time cooking aromatics and spices while the beans are cooking in the pressure cooker and then adding them to the beans after they are cooked.
- 1 lb dried small white beans, such as Great Northern or Marcella (Borlotti would also work but not be white)
- 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 1 large shallot, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed
- 1 pinch coarse sea salt
- 10 oz guanciale, cubed
- 1-2 T extra virgin olive oil
- 3 large shallots, diced
- coarse sea salt to taste
- 2 T minced garlic
- 1/4 t dried thyme
- 1/2 t ground cumin
- 3/4 cup golden raisins
- 1-2 T white balsamic vinegar, to taste
- salt to taste
- chopped fresh Italian parsley
- crusty bread for serving
Rinse the dried beans and place them in the multicooker. Add the diced shallot, smashed garlic cloves and extra virgin olive oil.
Cover the beans and aromatics with water by 2-3 inches. Set the pressure cooker function to high pressure and set it for 25-30 minutes.
Work on the aromatics for the soup while the beans cook. When the beans are done, let it naturally release for 10-15 minutes--or completely if time is not a factor, but if time is a factor and you need to make sure your beans cooked through, wait 10-15 minutes and then turn the valve to release the pressure. You can keep adding 5-10 minute increments of high pressure cooking until they are done.
Using a medium-large sauté pan, heat 1-2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and add the cubed guanciale over medium heat. Slowly cook the cubes, rendering some of their fat and crisping up the rest. Turn and move the cubes around the pan to prevent scorching.
When the guanciale is cooked, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Pour off (but reserve) all but 2 tablespoons of fat in the pan.
Add the shallots with a pinch of salt. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally, until translucent.
Add the garlic and continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes. If needed, add a little of the reserved pork fat back into the pan.
Add the dried thyme and cumin and continue cooking another 2-3 minutes.
When the onions are caramelized golden brown, turn the heat off and wait for the beans to be ready (they should be ready at similar times).
When the beans have cooked through and the pressure has released, add the golden raisins into the beans.
Turn on the sauté function to low or medium, just enough to simmer the soup. Keep stirring so it does not scorch or stick.
Scrape the cooked onion mixture into the beans.
Let the soup simmer for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently.
When you are ready to serve the soup, add the white balsamic vinegar and then taste the soup for more salt or white balsamic vinegar.
Serve the soup garnished with the cooked guanciale cubes and chopped parsley and crusty bread on the side.
If, like me, you are still acclimating yourself to a pressure cooker, this is a great site with advice about cooking beans. How long it will take can be affected by age of the dried beans and even what kind of water you have (I have well water).
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