Fennel, Tomato, and White Bean Soup

Updated February 23, 2016
This image courtesy of Joseph DeLeo

This soup is light, easy, and amazingly good. Try using different herbs in the bouquet garni (rosemary and marjoram are worthwhile experiments) or substituting chopped chervil for the parsley.

Dried Beans


Because dried beans usually take almost 2 hours to cook, cook them separately before adding them to the soup so the other ingredients don’t end up overcooked. Although most recipes recommend soaking dried beans overnight in cold water, I find that 3 hours is usually enough—with the exception of chickpeas, which need overnight soaking. To tell if they’ve soaked long enough, look at their skins—the outer skin on all the beans should be shriveled. Some cooks simmer beans in the same liquid in which the beans were soaked. I prefer to drain them and cook them in fresh water or, occasionally, directly in the soup.

Makes8 Servings



Total Timehalf-day

OccasionCasual Dinner Party, Family Get-together

Recipe Coursehot appetizer

Dietary Considerationegg-free, lactose-free, peanut free, soy free, tree nut free, vegetarian

Mealdinner, lunch

Taste and Texturegarlicky, herby, light, savory

Type of Dishhot soup


  • 1 fennel bulb
  • 1 medium-size onion, finely chopped
  • 18 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 quart chicken broth or water
  • 1 bouquet garni, preferably containing a fresh marjoram sprig
  • 4 medium-size tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and chopped, or 2 cups drained and seeded canned tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup cannellini, borlotti, or Great Northern beans, soaked, drained, and cooked until tender (see Notes)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Garlic toast
  • Olive oil


REMOVE the fuzzy green tops from the fennel, chop coarsely, and reserve. Remove and discard the stalk or save it for broth.

CHOP the fennel bulb by first cutting it in half (lengthwise from top to bottom) and then slicing each half. Chop the slices into ¼-inch chunks. Combine the fennel, onion, garlic, broth, and bouquet garni in a 4-quart pot. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, until the vegetables soften slightly, then add the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes more.

STIR in the beans and their cooking liquid, the parsley, and reserved fennel leaves.

SUGGESTIONS AND VARIATIONS If you want a slightly more assertive fennel taste, add a teaspoon of anise liqueur such as Pernod or Ricard. A tiny pinch of saffron is also a nice touch.

THIS soup is very similar to the base for Mediterranean fish soups. To convert it into a fish soup, just simmer the fish in the soup just before serving.

SERVE garlic toast at the table. I also like to put a small pitcher of virgin olive oil on the table for guests who want to drizzle a little into their soup.



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