Italian Pasta and Bean Soup — With Something Fishy

This satisfying orzo-cannellini bean soup gets a lift from tinned anchovies.
This satisfying orzo-cannellini bean soup gets a lift from tinned anchovies.

One hour to total comfort?

Count me in.

“One-Hour Comfort: Quick, Cozy, Modern Dishes for All Your Cravings” is the newest title by America’s Test Kitchen, of which I received a review copy. As the name implies, it’s all about dishes that nourish body, mind, and soul.

Got a mere hour? Then, you’re on your way just like that to self-care served up in a bowl or plate.

The recipes span dishes perfect for every hour of the day, from “Malted Milk Pancakes with Nutella Maple Syrup” and “Sesame Noodles with Shredded Chicken and Vegetables” to “Skillet Spanikopita” and “Caramel Dumplings.”

For me, “Italian Pasta and Bean Soup” sure hit the spot. It not only comes together fast, but it makes use of ingredients you most likely already have on hand if you keep a well-stocked pantry and freezer.

A can of diced tomatoes, some bacon, a stalk of celery, an onion, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes and some canned cannellini beans get heated in a pot.

If you happen to have a Parmesan rind, throw it in, because it adds a real depth of flavor as everything simmers. And if you have a tin of anchovies, add a few for even more umami. The recipe called for three fillets, but being the anchovy lover that I am, I added five total. Like anchovies added to a pasta sauce, their presence won’t be readily noticed at the forefront. But they add an almost meaty savoriness that you won’t soon be able to live without. Don’t fret if you don’t have anchovies handy, as you can always add a splash of fish sauce to taste instead.

To serve, sprinkle on grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.
To serve, sprinkle on grated Parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil.

Toward the end of the cooking time, stir in a generous amount of orzo, which will plump up and add body to the soup. In fact, the orzo soaks up the broth like a sponge. So much so, that if you have leftovers, you’ll most likely have to add more chicken broth the next day to loosen up the soup.

The recipe states it serves 8 to 10. But if you’re making the soup the focal point of a meal, with maybe a salad and grilled bread alongside, I think it serves more like 5 to 8, which I changed in the recipe below.

Spoon up this hearty pasta and bean soup that’s as warming and restorative as it gets.

Comfort in a bowl.
Comfort in a bowl.

Italian Pasta and Bean Soup

(Serves 5 to 8)

1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for serving

3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped fine

1 onion, chopped fine

1 celery rib, chopped fine

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 anchovy fillets, rinsed and minced, or to taste

4 cups chicken broth

2 cups water

1 (28-ounce) can diced tomatoes

2 (15-ounce) cans cannellini beans, rinsed

1 Parmesan cheese rind, plus grated Parmesan for serving

1 teaspoon table salt

1 cup orzo, ditalini, or other short pasta

1/4 cup minced fresh parsley

Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium heat until shimmering. Add pancetta and cook until rendered, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in onion and celery and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, pepper flakes, and anchovies and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Stir in broth and water, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in tomatoes and their juice, beans, Parmesan rind, and salt. Bring to a simmer and cook until flavors meld, about 10 minutes.

Bring soup to boil over medium-high heat. Stir in orzo and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Discard Parmesan rind. Stir in parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle individual portions with extra oil and sprinkle with grated Parmesan before serving.

Adapted from “One-Hour Comfort” by America’s Test Kitchen

More Anchovy-Loving Recipes to Enjoy: Grated Fresh Tomato Spaghetti with Anchovies

And: Yotam Ottolenghi’s Roasted Eggplant with Anchovies and Oregano

And: Extra-Anchovy Pasta with Kale

And: Anchovy Pork Asada

And: Roasted Savoy Cabbage Wedges, Caesar-Style

And: Celery and Apple Salad with Pounded Almonds, Anchovies, Parmesan, and Parsley

And: Pizza Chicken with Pancetta, Mozzarella, and Spicy Tomatoes

And: Cauliflower Salad with Eggs and Anchovies

And: Raw Kale Salad with Anchovy-Date Dressing

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