This Cannellini Bean Soup is one of my all-time favorite Italian soup recipes and I know it will be yours too. It’s rich in flavor, easy to make, and takes less than an hour to cook.
Like the majority of my Italian recipes, this soup follows my principle of using simple and fresh ingredients that provide an amazingly delicious and satisfying Italian meal.
Not only is this soup easy, but it’s also healthy thanks to the cannellini beans. 😍
What are Cannellini Beans?
In case you are unfamiliar with cannellini beans, they are a type of white bean that is mild in flavor. In our soup, we mash them down a little to give the soup a creamy texture.
There are actually 4 types of white beans and cannellini beans are the largest of the 4, as described here on Camellia Brand’s website. The most similar other type of white bean is the Great Northern Bean which is slightly smaller but very close in texture and flavor to the cannellini bean.
Due to the shape of the cannellini bean, they are also referred to as white kidney beans and sometimes are labeled as such by different brands. But trust me, they don’t taste like a regular red kidney bean that you’d use in a chili.
Cannellini beans are very healthy for you as well, and are a great source of fiber. For such a good tasting soup, it’s amazing it can be healthy too. Give it a try and let me know how you like it.
Ingredients for this Recipe
This recipe for Italian cannellini bean soup only uses 8 ingredients, of which onions, garlic and olive oil are considered a staple. If you enjoy Italian cooking, add the Italian cheese as a staple too. 😊
Let’s review each ingredient you’ll need, along with some tips to help make this the best soup possible!
You will need canned cannellini beans. Rinse and drain them. I have not tried using fresh beans that have been soaked overnight. The goal is to keep this recipe simple and using canned beans does exactly that!
You’ll need two medium yellow onions that have been finely chopped.
We use a bunch of garlic with the cannellini beans in this recipe. You can modify how much you want but this recipe calls for 5 to 8 cloves. Yes, that’s a lot, but thanks to the combination of the all the other flavors, the garlic is not overpowering.
I’ve tried using vegetable broth and even just water, but I’d be lying to say that the chicken broth is not needed. However, if you’re vegetarian, using vegetable broth may suit you just fine.
As with any broth, check the sodium level as it is often very high.
Green leafy lettuce
The best type of lettuce is escarole and I’ve stated that many times over the years. However, often times the local store doesn’t carry escarole, and especially the organic type. So unless we grow it ourselves, I need to find a replacement.
If you find yourself in a similar predicament, go for a green leafy lettuce, such as fresh romaine, but not romaine hearts.
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Make sure to use extra virgin olive oil, not regular olive oil. This is because extra virgin has more flavor. Regular olive oil is often lighter in flavor and is used more for sautéing or frying.
If you don’t have Romano cheese, use Parmesan cheese, but Romano has a sharper flavor that helps with the soup.
Dry white wine
This is an optional ingredient. We add it towards the end and it gives a good lift to the soup. Make sure to only use dry white wine. I purchase a cheap white wine at Aldi and it works great.
Cannellini Bean Soup Instructions
Making a good cannellini bean soup couldn’t be easier. This is not a multi-bean soup either, it uses only cannellini beans.
If you have leftovers (doubt it) it’s great for taking to work for your lunch. It will have co-workers asking what smells so good. Yes, I can vouch personally for this!
I’ll explain the steps of what’s involved, but you can grab the recipe card further down below.Jump to Recipe
To start, you’ll saute the onions for about 5 to 8 minutes.
Add the garlic to the olive oil in a large saute pan or sauce pan. I use my Cuisinart 5 quart sauce pan which I talk about frequently.
Once the onions are translucent, add in your drained and rinsed cannellini beans along with your broth. I often water down my broth by 40 to 50% simply to reduce the sodium.
Use a potato masher or even an emulsion blender to break down the beans in order to give the soup some creaminess. This is not a light brothy soup.
Once the beans are cooked/heated through add in the greens and let them cook down. This takes about 15 minutes. If you use a heartier green such as kale or collard greens, it will take at least 30-45 minutes.
Next add in the white wine. I recommend adding half of the cheese now and blend it in. Then use the remaining cheese when it’s time to serve. This allows others to adjust according to personal taste.
Cook for about 10 minutes and serve.
Why Use Lettuce in Italian Cannellini Bean Soup
Yes, this soup actually uses lettuce! Using leafy green lettuce provides the best texture for the soup. I mentioned escarole because escarole is actually slightly bitter and adds a nice complementary flavor to the soup.
I’ve tried using regular romaine hearts, however those are too crunchy with the hard middle stem.
I’ve also tried using spring salad mixes that you buy in the store and while it can work as a substitute, I find it’s too many different types of lettuce and makes the soup too “mangled” in flavors.
You can use collard greens or even chard as an alternative. The image above is my soup where I did a mix of collard greens and a lettuce called Jericho that I grow (it’s similar to Romaine).
Why Do I Use Cannellini Beans?
Cannellini beans are often called white beans and these beans blend really smoothly, almost creamy in texture.
You can certainly use other beans for this soup, but it will change the flavor. So do so at your own risk!
Also with cannellini beans regarding flavor, their flavor is subtle. Not like pinto or kidney beans. So this makes it a suitable choice for this type of Italian soup.
Using Chicken Broth vs. Veggie Broth for the Soup base
Some soups you can get by without using chicken broth – even using water, such as my blended chickpea soup. Tomato based soups are good example like pasta fagioli or my minestrone soup recipe are examples because the vegetables that are sauteed and cooked create their own vegetable broth.
However with this recipe the fullness of a good organic chicken broth adds a lot to the flavor and robustness of the soup itself. I prefer to make my own chicken broth by saving the broth when I pressure cook my chicken (check out my review on the Fagor 3-in-1 electric cooker if you’d like).
But when I don’t have it, I use store bought. Just be careful and choose a broth that doesn’t have a lot of herbs included since that will alter the flavor. Store bought broth can vary greatly from brand to brand, so check the ingredients list.
What to Serve with Cannellini Bean Soup
This beautiful Italian soup goes great with toasted authentic Italian bread or other artisan bread. Just use a toaster oven if you don’t need to toast a lot of slices. To turn it into a larger meal, serve with a nice Italian green salad, and even a delightful pasta recipe such as my zoodles with breadcrumbs.
How to Store the Soup
Store your soup in an air tight container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days. You can also store it in the freezer for up to 6 months. Remember to write the date and name of the soup on a label on the container. I use removable envelope labels or removable tape.
Variations of Cannellini Bean Soup
If you’re wanting to infuse some of your own creativity into this recipe, feel free to do so. Here are some suggestions.
- Add cooked sliced Italian sausage pieces to the soup.
- Swap the chicken broth with vegetable broth for a vegetarian version.
- Add in other vegetables and tomatoes, however this will cause it to become more of a fagioli, Tuscan or minestrone soup.
Let me know how you like it and if you made any changes to make it your own!
If You Like This Recipe…
I hope you enjoy my recipe for cannellini bean soup. If so, then you may also want to bookmark or save these other recipes too. Happy cooking!
Cannellini bean salad – If you like cannellini beans, then you’ll love this salad recipe!
Pasta with white beans and spinach – a delicious pasta recipe that is healthy and quick to make.
Italian Green Beans – This side dish goes great with pasta and chicken. It’s a great Italian green bean recipe.
Watch the quick video below in the recipe card to see how quick and easy this recipe actually is. If you like Italian recipes, then make sure to join our email list for more great recipes and tips.
Cannellini Bean Soup
- 2 cans cannellini beans rinsed and drained
- 2 chopped medium onions finely chopped
- 5-8 crushed garlic cloves don’t dice as this would make it overpowering
- 4 cups chicken or veggie broth if concerned with sodium use 2 cups broth and 2 cups water, or other ratio per your tastes.
- 1 bunch head of leafy green lettuce – chopped escarole is a great choice.
- 3-4 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup dry white wine optional
- 1/3 cup grated Romano cheese or other grated Italian cheese
- In a large sauce pan saute the onions with 3 Tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until translucent.
- Add in crushed garlic and saute for 3 more minutes.
- Add cannellini beans and the broth.
- Continue to cook over medium heat until all beans are tender – mash down some of the beans to add some creaminess to the soup. If it starts to boil, turn the heat down.
- Add the chopped greens and cook down for about 15 minutes over medium heat. If using a green like chard or collard greens, cook until they are tender – about 30 minutes or more.
- Add in 1/4 cup dry white wine and half the cheese. Stir.
- Cook another 10 minutes.
- Serve in bowls and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
- If you do not want to use the lettuce, you can omit it. However, the flavor of a slightly bitter lettuce like escarole is perfect for the soup. It doesn’t make the soup bitter at all; it’s just a great merging of flavors.
- The soup is best a bit creamy, so make sure to mash those beans down.
- The wine rounds out the flavor of the soup. Make sure it is a dry wine. I buy a cheap white wine and that works great.
- If using store-bought broth, make sure the broth is a basic chicken broth – not with a lot of aromatic herbs used in other cuisines, like thyme, rosemary, etc.
- Remember to only crush the garlic, not mince or dice it.
- Serve with nice bread on the side.
Kitchenware, Gadgets, and Tools Recommended for Use in this Recipe: