I’m ready for Winter to be over. Or at least ready for North Carolina’s weather system to make up its mind about which season we’re in. It’s currently a day by day decision.
Over the course of the last two weeks, we’ve experienced snowstorms, freezing ice rain, wind storms, vaguely-named “wintery mixes,” and a torrential thunder and lightning storm that included a tornado watch. Smack dab in the middle of all that, we had a handful of perfectly-clear, sunny days with temperatures in the high-seventies. Maybe even eighty. Like it was nothing.
Not that I’m complaining about those gorgeous, warm and breezy, summer-like days, but come on. We had back-to-back days with temperature swings of close to forty degrees. Ridiculous.
My sense of eating seasonally is now completely thrown off. I’m suddenly craving all kinds of warm weather produce. Berries. Tomatoes. Corn. I’m about five seconds away from buying a pack of Chilean strawberries and declaring it Spring. Officially.
BUT, we’re expecting another wintery mix tomorrow, so I’m straddling the seasonal line for at least a little while longer, starting with this tomato and white bean stew.
I’ve made several white bean stews and soups this winter; Lemony with dark, leafy greens. Spicy with shallots and bacon. Thick and chunky with hunks of chicken and caramelized butternut squash. White beans are such a versatile, comforting base to build flavor upon.
This version is all about a rich, herb-and-garlicky tomato sauce/stock that gets soaked up by the white beans and ditalini pasta. Then in turn, I sop up the stew with big hunks of crispy bread… Such. Goodness.
This time of year, with the quality of fresh local tomatoes sorely lacking, I used canned tomatoes. In a soup/stew like this, where I’m building layers of flavor with lots of herbs and spices, it’s an easy choice. During peak summer tomato season, you could of course substitute fresh tomatoes for an even more intense tomato flavor.
Also important to note: this recipe easily shifts from stew to soup; simply adjust the amounts of liquid and pasta accordingly. The sauce is quickly and easily absorbed by the ditalini pasta as it settles and coagulates, so if you plan to make a large batch for leftovers or simply make the dish in advance, I would err on the side of extra liquid.
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 2 tbsp unsalted butter (or sub 1 tbsp olive oil for vegetarian version)
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- 1 cup yellow onion, minced
- 1/2 tbsp (2 cloves) fresh garlic, minced
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary, leaves removed from woody stems and finely-minced (or sub 1/2 tsp dried rosemary)
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1/2 tsp ground sage
- 1/2 tsp paprika
- 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes, more or less to taste
- 1 tsp kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- 1-1/2 cups canned chopped tomatoes in purée
- 5-6 cups rich chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
- 1 (15.8 oz) can white beans
- optional: 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, for serving
- In a large, heavy-bottomed dutch oven or soup pot, heat the olive oil and butter over medium heat until melted. Add the onion, celery and garlic and cook until softened, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and stir to combine. Season with the spices, then add the chicken stock, cover, and bring to a boil.
- When the stock reaches a boil, turn the stove down to medium heat. Add the pasta, and cook uncovered at a brisk simmer, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is cooked al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Add the white beans and cook until warmed through. Add additional salt and pepper, to taste. Serve warm with crispy bread and a dusting of Parmesan.