Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley

April 19, 2016

Test Kitchen-Approved

Author Notes: How to cook a soulful bean soup in 10 minutes? As Marcella Hazan used to tell her students, "What you leave out is just as important as what you put in." Adapted slightly from The Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking (Knopf, 1992).Genius Recipes

Serves: 4 to 6


  • 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon chopped garlic
  • 6 cups cooked cannellini or other white beans—either canned or cooked from 2 cups dried (recommended)
  • Salt
  • Black pepper, ground fresh from the mill
  • 1 cup homemade broth or water (or 1/3 cup canned beef stock diluted with 2/3 cup water)
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • Thick grilled or toasted slices of crusty bread (optional)
In This Recipe


  1. Put the oil and chopped garlic in a soup pot and turn on the heat to medium. Cook the garlic, stirring it, until is becomes colored a very pale gold.
  2. Add the drained cooked or canned beans, a pinch of salt, and a few grindings of pepper. Cover and simmer gently for 5 to 6 minutes.
  3. Take about 1/2 cup of beans from the pot and puree them through a food mill back into the pot, together with all the broth. Alternately, use a blender, loosening with a bit of the broth. Simmer for another 5 to 6 minutes, taste, and correct for salt and pepper. Swirl in the chopped parsley, and turn off the heat.
  4. Ladle over the grilled bread slices into individual soup bowls.

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Reviews (36) Questions (1)

36 Reviews

Donna B. September 23, 2018
No need to say anything negative about the chef or receipe...just don’t post! Why do people feel it is okay to be rude? <br /><br />I am trying this for meatless Monday .... it sounds yummy! I am using Red Mill dried beans and homemade broth...can’t wait.
Rgranito1 September 8, 2018
This is true simplicity at its best! Take your time with this soup and add what you like!! Kale, rosemary or not. I agree with the other comment posted use the best ingredients you can find!! 😊 Enjoy
Katie G. June 29, 2018
So I did this and added cooked chicken because I didn’t have 6 cups of beans - only 4 - quite tasty, added onion powder at the end because something was missing but I liked it a lot!
Andrea D. May 13, 2018
After having read the instructions three times, I see no mention of when to add the broth (I could just be having a day full of brain glitches). I assume, after sautéing the garlic, you add the beans and broth together to simmer. Does this make sense? ☺️
Kristen M. May 13, 2018
Hi Andrea—see step 5! "together with all the broth"
Kristen M. May 13, 2018
(And by 5 I mean 3—I'm having a day of brain glitches myself.)
ik13 November 5, 2017
I made this and my family just loved it. It was so quick and perfect for a rainy afternoon. I used canned beans and rinsed them. It did come out thicker than the picture, so I add some water at the end, and we ate it with a knife and fork and thoroughly enjoyed it. I also added some chopped bacon as we had it left over from breakfast. I look forward to making this one again!
Travel February 3, 2017
This is the third Marcella Hazen recipe I have made and I have not liked any of them. Guess I am not a Marcella fan. The other two were bolognese sauce and the tomato sauce. Tossed all of them after a few tastes.
al W. February 13, 2018
Italian cooks would be using only the best ingredients, not supermarket brands sourced from China. If you want it to taste the way Marcella cooks, use GOOD quality olive oil, GOOD dried beans, FRESH herbs. Not everything has to taste the way Grandma cooked it. That is the joy of cooking.
Terry P. April 16, 2018
Can only imagine what you are doing wrong. Common sense goes a long way in the kitchen. Can you be more precise in your criticisms of Marcella's receipes?<br />
Cindy October 11, 2018
Not helpful without specifics and support for your view.
Ttrockwood December 21, 2016
Made this again recently with a few tweaks that really worked out great! I cooked my beans in a vegetable broth (i like the better than bullion brand for store bought) and then while the beans were cooking i simmered a parmesan rind in water to make a fantastic parmesan broth which i used as the liquid for the soup (i adjusted the salt to taste since the parm added a little too) after simmering the rind can either be discarded or become a cook's snack :) This combo added a lot more flavor to this simple easy soup and I'll definitely make it this way in the future too!
Annie December 21, 2016
An unexpectedly difficult time finding dry cannellini beans led to purchasing entirely too many when I finally did find them in bulk - it's hard to judge how much is pouring into the brown paper sack when you're only 5'2" and have to stand on tiptoe just to barely reach the container. But I digress... I ended up using 6 cups of cooked beans and followed the recipe as written except for adding some onion and using 2 cups of stock (half chicken/half beef). Absolutely delicious! So delicious, in fact, that I made another pot with the leftover beans.
KSDB November 13, 2016
I think this recipe needs a bit more explanation. <br /><br />Italians (or maybe just Tuscans) will slowly simmer cannellini beans in water for hours with just salt, whole sage leaves, and a crushed clove of garlic or two and then serve either drained as a side to a roast or with olive oil as soup for a first course. It's an elegant dish. I've served beans cooked this way at guest dinners to raves, and it's well worth it to find and follow a traditional recipe. But everything has to be just so. <br /><br />This recipe from Hazan (different in a number of respects that are easy to miss) is actually similar in its demands.. Not draining the beans if they're canned will likely ruin the dish. So will using a brand of canned beans with a muddled taste. Differences again as others have said between cooking your own beans and using canned, as well as the handling of the garlic or selection of the olive oil. While both the adaptation and the recipe say "cannellini or other white beans," there really are no "other white beans" that have the texture and sweetness of cannellini (save maybe "the Marcella" mentioned below), so you can substitute, but the results will be different. I personally would only use water, but can see how others would want to use broth, and if broth is used, the flavor will again vary widely. <br /><br />In other words, this is indeed a very simple recipe. But it has its own parameters that are rooted in the selection and quality of the ingredients. Most simply, this particular recipe is really all about the taste and quality of the beans and oil that go into it, and I can well imagine wildly different results while seemingly following this recipe to a T. This doesn't make it a bad recipe. But it's an unusual recipe for Americans, and I think the role of ingredient selection needs to be pointed out.
Betsy W. January 27, 2017
Thank you for writing this. I was so excited to see this recipe because it was so true to Italian roots cooking. I made it and was delighted with the outcome, and agitated with people's responses about it being "bland" or "sludgy". I didn't spend the time to think about what the problem was, but you're right. The recipe is so simple, that it can only really be about ingredients. I do think that many Americans have bombarded their taste buds so heavily with artificial flavors and processed junk that the nuances of delicate, well prepared, thoughtful food can be lost. Anyway, well said and thank you for clearing that up for folks.
Miyako J. October 25, 2017
I think that its important to clarify that Americans (however you define them) can come from growing up being fed by women whose spice cupboards would "bombard" a traditional (whatever that means) italian pallate. Curry powders, soy sauces, harissas...
Cindy October 11, 2018
Men don't feed their families or use spices? lol
Ttrockwood September 22, 2016
This looked like way too much oil for me, i cut it to 2TB for cooking and dribbled a bit on top of each bowl. This is infinitely better with excellent homemade broth and from scratch beans. <br />I added chopped fresh basil to the bowl when serving since it tasted a bit plain and that did the trick!
bas26 September 19, 2016
Sorry, this just didn't work for me. I ate about half a serving and couldn't finish it. I agree with Susanna, this is just a beige sludge and cries out for more flavor like herbs and more garlic. I ended up dumping it into the garbage disposal as I didn't think I could reheat, add rosemary, etc., and cook the beans much longer without it turning into a slush.
Tiramissue August 18, 2016
Rancho Gordo heirloom beans in Napa California sells a white bean called the Marcella in honor of the late Ms. Hazan which is a perfect choice for this recipe. I recommend the book Heirloom Beans by Steve Sando for great recipes and techniques for cooking beans.
Tara C. May 18, 2016
love the bowl in the pic - any idea where it's from?
Katie May 12, 2016
Marcella's genius is in the simplicity of many of her recipes. I love this one (and many others) because I can create something wonderful out of just a few ingredients. I think that's pretty special.
Transcendancing May 6, 2016
I added more beef stock to this and the thinner soup worked much better for us (I didn't make the first half though so not sure what happened and want to test again anyway). I finished it off by frying up some canned butter beans in garlic and butter and adding them to the puréed soup. Served with toast and it was great for a blustery evening.
gwennw April 26, 2016
This should not be categorized as a soup. Although quite tasty, I would call it a big bowl of beans or a bean stew. Made it as a side to go with sandwiches, but it is way to filling to be considered a "side".
Mrs. R. April 26, 2016
Thank you for the post. I had so much fun making a batch yesterday. Substituted barlotti beans and used an oven method (2 cups dry beans, 6 cups water, 1 tsp. salt, baked at 350 for about 2 hours) to cook the beans, then drained and made the genius beans! I thought they were wonderful as is but then made it into our evening meal by adding more water to make it soupier and ladled it over bowls of leftovers (noodles, string beans and zucchini with Parmesan) for "instant" pasta fagioli. He loved it!
Debwoudhuysen April 25, 2016
I made this as written tonight and it is delicious - but more thick bean stew than soup. I had some excellent chicken stock and cooked the beans earlier in the day after brining and think it is wonderful. Will dilute the leftovers with more stock for soups era meal later in the week.
Ivy April 25, 2016
I found another version of this same Marcella recipe on Food & Wine online. Identical, except it uses 2 cups of cooked beans, not 6 cups. That might explain Susanna's experience! It also says you can feel free to add more broth, although it is meant to be very bean-centric.
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
The original version in Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking calls for either 2 cups of dried beans, cooked, or 6 cups of canned beans, drained, which is why our version does, too!
Sandy April 25, 2016
Once again you've messed up the formatting of the recipe when it's printed out. Underlined stuff, and "check that the measuremt" (sic) inserted between the quantity of an ingredient and the ingredient's name. Most annoying of all, hidden links to the Amazon book listing buried under everything, which pops up when I try to clean it up.
Kristen M. April 25, 2016
Sandy, thanks for letting us know about the wonky behind the scenes formatting—it should be fixed now. We link to the cookbook on Amazon (or wherever the original source is) in the headnotes of Genius Recipes as a courtesy to the original authors, and so that readers can find more like this if they like the looks of the recipe. I'm not sure where you're seeing "check that the measuremt" but I can try to fix it if you let me know.
Miyako J. October 25, 2017
"We link to the cookbook on Amazon (or wherever the original source is) in the headnotes of Genius Recipes as a courtesy to the original authors"<br /><br />Amazon is not the original source for Hazan's book. It is the company that pays you for impressions/purchases from its store. C'mon.