5 Ingredients or Fewer

Marcella Hazan's White Bean Soup with Garlic and Parsley

April 19, 2016
28 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Serves 4 to 6
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

What You'll Need
  • 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)
  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.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Colette Connors
    Colette Connors
  • Kate Runyon
    Kate Runyon
  • Donna B
    Donna B
  • Katie Gosney
    Katie Gosney
  • Annie
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

58 Reviews

Alyssa November 19, 2022
I survive the cold months with recipes like this. So quick to whip up, so light on the wallet, and so easy to riff on. I added a squeeze of lemon juice and a grating of parm at the end and it was perfection.
Stacy October 19, 2022
This recipe was delicious and, as other reviewers have reintegrated, you must use the best quality ingredients. I used the Rancho Gordo Marcella beans (I mean, they are named after the iconic chef), olive oil from my trip to Spain, fresh garlic, and I opted for fresh rosemary from my garden since I didn’t have fresh parsley. I added extra homemade chicken stock to make it a little brothier and included a Parmesan rind too. I served it with some fresh bread rubbed with olive oil and toasted, then rubbed with a garlic clove. My family tore it up and asked for it to be made again soon.
Colette C. January 15, 2022
This did not really feel like a soup, not enough broth for me.
The flavour was wonderful. I served it over toasted bread . It felt like beans on toast though.
Didn't want to eat it that way again so I made another soup with spinach ,cherry tomatoes and these white beans. It was delicious!
ksevans13 October 5, 2020
I was so hopeful about this recipe, and made it with high-quality ingredients and exactly as instructed. Alas, we were underwhelmed. The flavors were mild and the texture pasty. We will try to rescue the rest by serving it over vegetables, thinning it out, maybe adding tomatoes or another acidic component, but I don’t think we’ll make this preparation again.
ksevans13 October 5, 2020
P.S. We cooked beans from dried. Maybe we overcooked them? Or over-blended in step 3?
Kate R. June 17, 2020
I live in Sarasota Florida and had the incredible pleasure of getting to know the amazing Marcella. Our first meeting was at a retail women’s clothing biz I managed and then I happened to have shifted career paths into the spice shop arena. When she walked through that door in all her barely five foot stature, I felt her presence as though a giant had just entered and remember my hand shaking with excitement as I carefully measured and weighed out some dry Greek oregano for a client I was assisting. I was blessed with our second meeting there which became the beginning point of a truly joyful and special friendship. She became my own special “regular”...if you can apply this label to such an iconographic character...and we spent many hours over the course of a year discussing the nuances and power of herbs and spices. She even “reprimanded” me about our mislabeling of pinoli nuts which were in reality a pine nut but not of the piñon tree...hence a lesser quality imposter. The following week, I was gifted a small container of her very own stash of the real deal. I will admit here that the cherished nuts never made it into a pesto or such though we discussed the many ways to riff on that classic. No. I still have that prized jar in a special place in my kitchen as my own little remembrance of her. Now that she has passed, I look to it daily as I cook and am fortified with her great wisdom to keep it simple. Keep it true. A mantra that goes far beyond the tiny walls of my kitchen.
Just thought to share....
Charlotte March 10, 2020
Loved this recipe! I drizzled a bit of chili crisp on top for an added kick and it was to delicious for words.
Debbie M. May 6, 2022
We used chili crisp here too when I have it. It’s so good with these beans. We also love this recipe as written.
Janet September 15, 2019
In step two, how can you simmer if you haven’t added any liquid yet?
KSDB September 15, 2019
Whether using canned or beans cooked from dried, there will be some liquid adhering to the beans. The olive oil also helps. Just simmer on low for a few minutes so the flavors meld.
Danielle September 15, 2019
You’ve added 1/2 cup of oil. Put it on your low setting.
Bella95 March 10, 2019
Love this. Just wanted to pass on a couple of tips. If you're using canned beans (dried ARE better but canned are ok and SUCH a great time saver for meals in a hurry) rinse them a couple of times before using. The garlic needs to be JUST coloured, it burns almost instantly and will be super bitter. For me the easiest way not to burn it is to heat the oil, add the garlic then add the beans immediately. Also as others have said use good quality ingredients.
B99 February 20, 2019
I made this one time and used dried beans. I think if serving with a flavorful meat, it is great as is. But I could somewhat see how some would find this “bland”, and I am not one to heavily salt food. I wasn’t sure if I should salt the water when cooking the dried beans, so I did not, to be on the safe side. But I think next time, I will salt the water. But this is a very simple and versatile dish as I would make it again,
Bella95 March 10, 2019
I recommend salting the beans when they're cooked as, so lve heard, salting them while cooking makes the skins tough.
Valerie June 22, 2020
There are many theories out there in the mist. What I have read and have proceeded to do is salt the beans while soaking. Does not make the skins tough. Add more salt when cooking if desired or salt at the end.
Ali W. February 10, 2019
Can this be frozen?
Galapagos February 8, 2021
Yes. Freezes well, as do most dishes made of dried beans. I often freeze half a batch.
My favorite beans for making this are Marcella beans from Rancho Gordo.
Danielle January 19, 2019
I made this exactly as detailed, except I used dried parsley and probably slightly over cooked the garlic. This is delicious and super easy. I used water for my liquid and didn’t have to add additional seasoning after the first salt and pepper input. This is a great recipe for using a handheld blender too.

I’m not sure where the reviewers below are getting oil slicks and sludge. The oil was fully absorbed by the beans and the soup is the color of the main ingredient.
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?

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?
Cindy October 11, 2018
Not helpful without specifics and support for your view.
Roberta H. March 19, 2020
Marcella Hazan is the Queen of fantastic Italian recipes. I have two of her original cookbooks, they are falling apart I have used them for over 38 years. Really surprised about your comments. Her Bolognese rocks , her Osso Bucco a legend !
Rachel E. August 26, 2021
It's just me personally, but I'm not impressed with a pasta sauce recipe that calls for 5 tablespoons butter. And I have had mixed results with the Marcella beans, although that's not a specifically Marcella Hazan recipe. I only mention this because you ask.
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.
Bella95 March 10, 2019
If you still have leftover beans try this.
KSDB November 13, 2016
I think this recipe needs a bit more explanation.

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.

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.

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