Zuppa di Fagioli

Bean Soup

The secret of success is in using fresh beans. If you really cannot get hold of any, the dried variety will have to do, but the flavour won’t be quite the same. Always bring the beans to a full boil after soaking them. Wash and drain them, then use as fresh. The soup does not necessarily contain onion but it is needed for flavouring dried beans.


  • 650 g ( lb) fresh borlotti beans or 300 g (10 oz) dried, soaked overnight and drained
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 large stick celery, finely chopped
  • 50 g ( oz) fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • about 50 ml ( fl oz) olive oil
  • 30 g (1 oz) bacon or ham fat (preferably smoked),
  • finely chopped, or 115 g (4 oz) pork belly, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • salt and pepper


Cover the fresh or soaked beans in cold water, bring to the boil and simmer gently until soft. Dried beans will take about an hour. Mix the parsley, celery and bacon or ham fat together very thoroughly to make a paste.

Heat the olive oil and fat in a deep pan, add the onion, celery and parsley mixture (and the pork belly, if using) and fry together, until the onion is soft. Add the tomato paste and mix together, adding about 6 tablespoons of warm water to dilute the purée.

Drain the cooked beans, add to the pan and stir. Pour in enough boiling water to make the quantity of soup you require – about 1 litre ( pints). Add the water slowly and carefully so that you have just the right amount and don’t finish up with a watery mess. Toast the bread in the oven and place in the bottom of the soup tureen. Cook the soup, covered, for 10 minutes then pour over the bread and serve.