Sure, they’re not exactly the prettiest pantry staples, and unless you dig out your Instant Pot or pressure cooker, they’re the teensiest bit high maintenance because you have to soak them overnight before making soup.

But for less than a dollar a bag, the humble Great Northern Beans are actually pretty spectacular because you can make a big ol’ pot of rib-sticking deliciousness and everyone you’re feeding will demand seconds and thirds.

So after trying a few different recipes over the years, I’ve finally found my favorite way to make Tuscan Bean Soup. With no further adieu, here’s the Christa version:


2 of your favorite medium-sized onions, small dice

6 garlic cloves, minced

5 oz pancetta, small dice

6 cups chicken stock

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 Parmesan cheese rind (optional but highly recommended for deep flavor)

1/2 cup heavy cream

1 lb bag of dried Great Northern Beans

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, chopped

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped

1 large pinch of red pepper flakes

2 bay leaves

Olive oil, kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese to taste


Heat up a tablespoon of olive oil in your favorite soup pot over medium heat and fry up the pancetta until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the pancetta from the pot and reserve. In the pancetta drippings, saute the onion with a big pinch of salt and freshly ground black pepper until translucent, not browned. Add in the minced garlic, rosemary, thyme and red pepper flakes and stir around for a minute, being careful not to burn the garlic. This step infuses all these Tuscan flavors into the soup base right from the start. Stir in the tomato paste and saute until it breaks down into the mixture.

Add the beans, chicken stock, 1 tablespoon of kosher salt, bay leaves and Parmesan rind (if using), bring to a boil and then reduce to a simmer for an hour. After an hour, test one of the beans to make sure it’s cooked all the way through (simmer longer if they’re still too hard), and once you’re ready to go, puree the soup to your desired consistency (I prefer it a little chunkier but completely smooth works too) with a stick blender or by carefully ladling it into a blender (be careful not to overfill the blender, the soup is very hot, and I’ve learned the hard way before).

Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste. Remove the Parmesan rind and bay leaves, stir in the cream, and once you divide the soup into bowls, garnish with the crispy pancetta and grate your favorite Italian cheese over the top. I like to serve it with rosemary bread that I buy sliced from my grocery store, drizzle with olive oil and a generous dusting of Parmesan and bake at 350 degrees for 12 minutes until golden brown.