Quick Note: Crema di cannellini (White Bean Soup)

Quick Note: Crema di cannellini

Here’s a quick and easy weeknight supper for you: a purée of cannellini beans, seasoned with garlic and rosemary, and thinned out with water or broth to create a soup. Nothing could be simpler or more satisfying. And if you are using canned beans—which you can, why not?—the soup can be done in five minutes. There is no cream in this soup, by the way, the Italian word crema does not mean cream, as in the dairy product, but simply refers to any smooth, creamy textured purée.


Olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves (or more if you like), whole but lightly crushed
A sprig of fresh rosemary
Boiled or canned cannellini beans
Broth or water (or the cooking liquid if using boiled beans)
Salt and pepper
A handful of parsley, finely chopped

NB: No exact measurements for this one; use as much or as little of each ingredient as you need or feel like using. This recipe is pretty much ad lib.   


Begin by lightly sautéing your garlic and rosemary in abundant olive oil over moderately low heat. Once the garlic takes on some color, remove both the garlic and the olive oil from the pan. Then pass your cannellini beans through a food mill into the seasoned oil. Allow the beans to insaporire for a few minutes, then add enough water, broth or cooking liquid to thin out the bean purée to the consistency of a soup. Simmer the mixture for a few minutes to let the flavors meld. About a minute before its’ done, stir in the chopped parsley. Drizzle with raw, best-quality olive oil just before serving.

NOTES: This basic recipe is incredible flexible and versatile. Usually, it can be served with some crusty bread on the side, or top of a piece of toasted bread laid at the bottom of the plate, or topped with croutons fried in olive oil, and—as picture above—with boiled rice mixed in. Or some soup pasta instead of the rice.

The same method lends itself to just about any other bean or legume: borlotti, lentils, fagioli all’occhio (black eyed peas), chickpeas… you name it. For a more ‘refined’ taste, you substitute a soffritto of onion, or onion, carrot and celery, for the garlic, in which case don’t remove them from the pan as you would the garlic. For a bit more substance, you can also fry some cubed pancetta in the seasoned oil. Or top your crema with some sautéed shrimp or scallops, which makes for an elegant presentation fit for company.

Boiling dried beans takes some time but is very easy. If you have the time, soak the beans in water to cover them amply, either overnight or save yourself some time by bringing them to a boil and let them soak in the hot water for an hour. Pre-soaking is not strictly necessary, but it does save time and helps the beans to retain their taste and texture—although that’s not too important if you’re going to use them in a purée, of course. Then simmer them in water to cover generously, along with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprig of fresh sage (if you have some on hand) until tender. Season with salt a few minutes before the beans are done. The simmering liquid has lots of flavor and can be used to thin out the crema.

If using canned beans, on the other hand, make sure to rinse them off and drain in a colander. The canning liquid has stuff you don’t want to ingest and, besides, it gives a funny ‘canned’ taste to the dish. When using canned beans, it is best to use broth to give the crema some extra flavor.

Crema di cannellini, when it is kept quite thick, makes for a nice topping for crostini.


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20 Responses to “Quick Note: Crema di cannellini (White Bean Soup)”

  1. 26 January 2014 at 03:17 #

    Fantastico! I just made this and it is wonderfully delicious. Thank you for sharing your family recipes! I’m half Italian and remember as a kid the great food my mom, aunt, grandmother would cook. All three passed away when I was young and I never got their recipes….but I remembered the wonderful smells and I began to search for Authentic Italian recipes. That’s when I found your blog spot and now the new website. You’re recipes have awakened my childhood memories of the wonderful meals with mia famiglia and for that I’m truely grateful! I’ve made several of your recipes and all have turned out so delicious. Grazie!

  2. 30 November 2010 at 19:14 #

    I have made something similar to this using an Emeril Lagasse recipe, but not in the processed form. This looks great.

  3. 21 November 2010 at 14:54 #

    I'm always looking for a quick delicious soup recipe. I'll surely try this soon! Love your blog! Visit me at wendysfavoriteplace.blogspot.com

  4. 17 November 2010 at 21:44 #

    Frank, as always, your post is delicious, and delicate and thoughtful! I just came in from Rome and brought home some EVOO, Canellini beans and a chunk of parmigiano romano with a box of risotto , a few minutes ago. I'm cooking this up for an artist group painting at my farm domani! BRAVO e mille grazie!!! Photos to follow!!

  5. 14 November 2010 at 11:33 #

    Simplicity at its best and it sounds wonderful. My husband would love this and so would I.

  6. 13 November 2010 at 10:34 #

    Thanks, folks! Yes, so often simple is best. And thanks for all your great ideas for variations–they are, indeed, endless!

  7. 12 November 2010 at 22:40 #

    I love the simplicity of the recipe.

  8. 11 November 2010 at 17:30 #

    like this one a whole lots – time for good soups and why not a creamed bean one – nice with the flavor additions and suggestions

  9. 11 November 2010 at 13:40 #

    frank this is simply wonderful, and looks so creamy and comforting. I love cannellini beans and will definitely try this. Who wouldn't love to curl up with a great book on the chaise lounge with a bowl of this…..lovely post as ALWAYS

  10. 11 November 2010 at 10:23 #

    Your picture looks beautiful, and I love the ease and deliciousness you describe. Crusty bread completes the meal…Theresa

  11. 11 November 2010 at 10:00 #

    Picture perfect in so many ways!

  12. 11 November 2010 at 09:25 #

    Such brilliant simplicity, and perfect for this time of year. Funny you mentioned chickpeas at the end because I was thinking all along that I'd try it with them – I have a cupboardful!

  13. 11 November 2010 at 09:19 #

    Oh man oh man this really got to me. I love cannellini beans almost as much as I love Kimchi. Now I am torn what to make for my “Me” dinner while Dr. Food is at a business dinner. Crema di cannellini or Kimchi fried rice. Hey, maybe I will make “International night” and have both.

  14. Anonymous
    11 November 2010 at 08:40 #

    I cannot wait to try this.

  15. 11 November 2010 at 06:39 #

    This is, indeed, one of my favorite winter weeknight suppers.

  16. 11 November 2010 at 05:09 #

    I like it how you present variations on every dish. For this one, instead of thinning it with water or broth, you could add some tomato juice, or passata, then let it reduce for a while. Of course, if you do that, you don't mash the beans. Then, if you top it with big bunch of caramelized onions and serve with sauerkraut on the side, you have a meal fit for a king. This would be a typical romanian dish.

  17. Turkey's For Life
    11 November 2010 at 02:09 #

    Just perfect. I always get excited about simple soups like this. It looks so comforting! Borlotti beans are just coming to the end of their season at the moment so I'm going to buy some and use some of them to try this soup. I'll use the rest to eat with some sucuk (a Turkish sausage similar to pepperoni).

    Love this blog by the way.

  18. 10 November 2010 at 22:21 #

    Wow. Can't get much simpler – love the herbs. Some hearty bread and this is perfect!

  19. 10 November 2010 at 21:52 #

    And maybe wilt some greens into it…

  20. 10 November 2010 at 21:30 #

    You had me at the ingredients! Brillant love this one! :)

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