Last fall I was cooking a lot during the height of COVID. One thing I made over and over again was Tuscan bean soup. I changed up the recipe a few times, just because I had time on my hands. The bean soup eventually morphed into a hearty stew that included some form of grain or pasta for enjoying in the colder winter months.
This version of the recipe calls for farro. Farro is an ancient grain in the wheat family. It is chewy, fibrous, and a little nutty in flavor. It is also a good source of vitamin B3 and zinc. Farro is a grain that does contain gluten and isn’t recommended for anyone who is gluten-intolerant.
This soup is vegan, yet it has a good amount of plant-based protein. Both farro and beans are excellent sources of protein for those who don’t eat meat. Vegan farro soup is full of carbohydrates, protein, fiber, vitamins, and minerals.
There are a few steps to this recipe, but they are worth it to coax the flavors out of some of the ingredients. The good news is that some ingredients are canned to make things a bit easier.
You might want to make a large batch of this soup and freeze the leftovers in individual portions for quick weeknight meals. This will keep in the freezer for 4 months if well sealed.
- 1 small garlic bulb
- 2 TBS extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 cup semi-pearled farro
- 2-1/2 cups vegetable broth
- 1 medium yellow onion chopped
- 2 TBS tomato paste
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 2 15 oz. cans fire-roasted diced tomatoes
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 dried bay leaf
- 1 15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 to 3 cups chopped kale
- Sea salt and ground black pepper to taste
- Nutritional yeast for serving
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- Slice off 1/4-inch of the top of the head of garlic, exposing the tips of some of the garlic cloves. Place cut side up on a piece of aluminum foil large enough to wrap around the bulb. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and wrap the foil around the bulb. Place in the oven and roast for 40 minutes while you cook the farro.
- In a saucepot over high heat, bring 2-1/2 cups of vegetable broth and the farro to a boil. Cover the pot, lower the heat, and simmer for approximately 30 minutes until the broth is absorbed and the farro is just cooked to al dente (a little chewy).
- Once the garlic is cool enough to handle, squeeze the cloves out of their skins onto a cutting board and finely chop them.
- In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the onion. Sauté for 5 minutes or until the onion is translucent. Stir in the roasted garlic and tomato paste. Cook until the tomato paste is fragrant, approximately 1 minute.
- Add the 4 cups of broth, tomatoes, cooked farro, oregano, basil, and bay leaf to the onions. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer. Once simmering, stir in the beans and kale. Continue to simmer for 10 to 15 minutes until the kale has wilted and the soup is hot.
- Season with salt and pepper and ladle into serving bowls. Top each bowl of soup with some nutritional yeast for a cheesy flavor.
Notes & Tips
Farro can be a bit maddening to shop for. The labels don’t always say whether it is semi-pearled or whole. This is important because whole farro is a tough grain to cook well unless it has been soaked the night before. Semi-pearled farro has some of the bran removed so that it cooks faster. Be mindful of which farro you are purchasing and soak, if necessary.
If you prefer a creamy soup. Take one cup of the soup and blend it until smooth and add it back into the pot. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to pulse some of the soup right in the pot, leaving some chunky parts for texture.
Substitutions and Shortcuts
I tend to lean toward a gluten-free diet when I can. I have made this soup with short grain brown rice instead of farro. It has a similar chew and cooks the same way you would cook farro.
You don’t have to use cannellini beans. Garbanzo beans have a little more bite to them if you are looking for additional texture. Or, feel free to use a can of great northern beans or even kidney beans.
Fire-roasted tomatoes are one of my favorite canned products. If you can’t find them, use any good quality diced tomatoes. If it is the height of the growing season, by all means, use fresh, ripe tomatoes. I am fond of grape or heirloom tomatoes in this soup.
Kale is plentiful in Italy, where this recipe originated. It is also super popular in the states. I sometimes feel like I am over-dosing on kale and will substitute with escarole or spinach just to change things up.
The nutritional yeast component is to add a cheesy flavor in place of parmesan cheese. Don’t be shy about adding your favorite shredded vegan cheese or a dollop of vegan ricotta.
I love this soup with a slice of crusty Tuscan bread that has been toasted and rubbed with a garlic clove.
You could get a little more energetic and make a batch of crispy chickpea tenders for dunking in the soup.
I enjoy adding a spoonful of vegan pesto on top of this soup. You can make a fresh batch while the soup is cooking or reach for a good jarred brand.