[7] White Bean and Spinach Soup

Enchanted Broccoli Forest

The soup I was originally contemplating after we received our first CSA share called for escarole (which we didn’t have), but said we could substitute just about any green for the escarole, including kale and spinach. Since we got what appeared to be an obscene amount of spinach in the first CSA, that’s what we did.

In reality, we only got about a half-obscene amount of spinach, since we got a little over half the amount of greens the recipe called for (and that was truly copious). While we could have, and maybe should have, rounded it out with kale, we instead decided to cook just half the recipe. The only thing that wasn’t super easily halved was the bay leaf, and I just tossed in a small one as my solution.

Incidentally? Look for places to buy your herbs and spices in bulk, if you don’t already. Even our local Whole Foods (which everyone expects to be rather expensive) has bulk herbs and spices for far cheaper than the bottles in any grocery store (themselves included). Our paprika cost us about $0.12 and the bay leaves were so light that the cashier ended up just giving them to us, because they couldn’t weigh them. Furthermore, this allows us to only buy what we need, and keeps our spices fresher.

Our Whole Foods sells spice bottles, but those can be acquired lots of places, or you can reuse your old spice bottle from the grocery store (I have purchased new spice bottles and reused old ones).


1 tbsp olive oil
2 c chopped onion (I don’t recall measuring this…)

1 bay leaf

2 stalks celery (I dislike it, but put it in anyway)

2 medium carrots

2 tsp salt (I used kosher)

6 c water

3 – 4 c cooked white beans (we used 15oz cans, the author says 2 cans of that size should be enough for the full recipe, rinse well)

3 tbsp minced fresh garlic (using a garlic press means more cloves for the same measurement, I found)

1.5 lbs greens, minced (calls for escarole, we used spinach)

Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

Garnish is freshly ground nutmeg, minced parsley and parmesan cheese (we didn’t have any of this)


Heat the oil in a dutch oven or other large pot over low heat, then add the onion, bay leaf, celery, carrots and salt. Cook (still at low heat) for about 10 minutes, and then add the water. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook at a low simmer for about 20 minutes (until the veggies are tender).

Add the beans, garlic and as much of the greenery as you can manage. Cover and allow the greenery to cook down some, then add more. Repeat until all the greenery is in the pot and somewhat cooked down. Remember that, since the soup is hot, it will keep cooking down some even after you remove it from the heat. Then add the black pepper to your taste (and add more salt here as needed). Serve hot, and with garnishes. Or not.

Cooking and Consumption Notes


We halved the recipe here, as mentioned before. I have to say that choosing the right size pot for that made the whole thing work better. I haven’t ever been good at eyeballing which pot is correct in the past, so managing it more than once in a week was a super feeling.

We used canned Great Northern Beans for the “white beans” of this soup. I do not believe I would do that again. The biggest issue was that the beans were nearly mush even just coming out of the can (which I’ve never experienced before, but I haven’t ever used any canned beans but “chili beans” and kidney beans). The beans broke up as I rinsed them, as I stirred them into the soup to distribute them, as I stirred the wilted greens in to fit more, as I looked at them…

Really, no good. I suspect they also added a great deal of the “salt to taste”, so if you DON’T use canned beans, make sure to salt adequately. Don’t be shy here.


The big spinach leaves we had worked wonderfully for the recipe and tasted heavenly. When we get spinach again in our third week CSA (as the farmer expects), I suspect it’s going to be difficult not to make this recipe again. Especially since we bought enough beans to make a full recipe. Yes, I know I just said I wouldn’t used canned beans again, but those beans need to be used somehow.

I really loved this soup. I would eat it all day if I could, and tell myself it’s super healthful. The flavors played so beautifully, and I didn’t even have a problem with the celery. I happen to know for a fact that Bill also thought it was a great recipe.

Better yet? We had about one serving left over, and a good friend popped by for dessert, and we fed her dinner first. Even this soup, reheated, got rave reviews from her. I strongly suggest you make it if you’re reading this blog. And then devour it! NOMS!

Also, it’s healthful! It has veggies and beans and all that good stuff! What more could you ask?

15 November 2012 Edit: I have made this dish several times since first posting about it, and recently posted a second update about making it. In a comment to that post, my friend Jen asked me to amend this post to say what kind of beans work best, given I mention mushiness here. Seems a smart idea, so I’ve copied what I said to her in that comment here.

“Basically, it’s not that Great Northern beans don’t work, it’s that canned beans are mushy. When I have used canned beans, it has been less good than when I have quick soaked and cooked them myself.” By “them” I mean dried beans.