Tuscan Cannellini Bean Soup with Anchovies
This cannellini bean soup with anchovies is so minimalistic and so quick to make that it’s hard to believe how delicious it is. No broth? No chunks of carrots, celery or onion? And it only simmers for 30 minutes? The secret lies in the anchovies. We love these little omega-3 packed fishes in the Brain Works Kitchen for their umami flavor and brain healthy fatty acids. I learned this Tuscan Cannellini Bean Soup with Anchovies from Chef Giancarla Bodoni of Monteverdi, Tuscany when we collaborated on cooking classes for Sempre Sano. Leave it to Giancarla — a brilliant chef, a champion of Tuscan simplicity — to turn a few cans of beans into a satisfying meal.
It may sound bare bones, but Giancarla’s soup gives you maximum flavor with minimum effort.
Brain healthy cannellini beans, rosemary and olive oil
There are so many things to love about this soup. First, it requires just 6 ingredients, all of which are likely standing by in your pantry right now. (The porcini are optional!)
The key ingredients — beans, anchovies, olive oil, rosemary — are all included in the 10 Brain Healthy Food Groups we strive to eat to reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s disease. Rosemary (technically aleafy green) has been studied for its ability to improve memory, alleviate depression and enhance speed and accuracy of cognitive tasks. Beans are an especially key brain healthy food: they stabilize blood sugar and prevent the spiking of insulin; are high in protein and low in fat; and they are included in all the Blue Zones diets of healthy centenarians around the world. Besides being packed with omega-3 fatty acids, anchovies are a great source of brain-boosting vitamin B12, an essential nutrient for basic cognitive function. And canned beans are just as nutritious as those that are freshly cooked.
The secret is in the anchovies
I’ve made this soup with my Brain Works Boot Camp classes here in Jackson Hole where we topped it with cremini mushrooms from the grocery store. I took it down to Mexico to La Cocina Que Canta cooking classes at Rancho La Puerta, and everyone marveled at its simplicity — even those who don’t care for anchovies. (They melt away when cooked in the olive oil, and then get pureed into the soup.)
Tuscan simplicity: Maximum flavor with minimal effort
This soup is a perfect example of what the Italians do so well — create incredibly flavorful meals out of a few simple ingredients. The soup comes together with minimal effort in just under 40 minutes. This is weeknight cooking that doesn’t make you work too hard. And, it makes for a nourishing supper on a cold winter’s night.
At Sempre Sano in September, porcini were abundantly in season, so we topped this soup with a quick sauté of these mushrooms with a little bit of chopped rosemary. You could skip this part and just drizzle generously with extra virgin olive oil.