The key to this soup is using ivory mayocoba beans. These beans cook to a rosy beige with a buttery taste and creamy texture. You could, of course, use any bean you like but the mayocobas are particularly rich tasting and smooth. Give them a try if you haven’t tasted them yet.
Dried beans are unknown quantities: you never know exactly how dry they are. Older ones might need a little more water or cooking time. Keep your eye on the pot, adding water if they don’t seem to be soupy enough, cooking longer as needed.
The mayocobas taste so good on their own that you don’t really need to add anything, but the flavor options compliment them. I have a stash of Parmesan rinds in my freezer to add to soups for extra salt and flavor. If you’re serving vegans, they can be left out.
Cook the Italian sausages in a separate pan if you’re serving a mixed group. Keep the sausage warm and let those who like add some to their soup.
If you’re not serving vegetarians, you can use low-sodium chicken broth instead of the water. Add whole Italian sausages to the beans for the last half hour of cooking. Remove them, give them a good chop, then stir them back into the soup to heat through.
To serve, give each bowl of soup a drizzle of olive oil and some Parmesan cheese for flavor and richness.
The final addition is a sprinkle of gremolata, an Italian condiment that will add a freshness to the soup with its mixture of parsley, lemon zest and garlic.
Serve with a green salad and some warm herby focaccia, made easily from purchased pizza dough you can often find in grocery stores.
While the beans cook, generously grease a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. Plop the dough onto the prepared pan and press it evenly with oiled fingers to fill as much of the pan as you can. Let it rise. (Even a short rise in half an hour will be fine.)
When the dough looks swollen, evenly press holes into the dough. Brush with olive oil, and evenly sprinkle with chopped fresh rosemary and salt. Bake at 425 degrees F until golden. Tear or cut into pieces to serve.
Remember to pack this soup in a thermos for a winter cross-country skiing or snow shoeing adventure.
Feel free to use your Instapot to make this soup. It will make cooking dried beans something you can do in an hour or so, totally eliminating the soaking process.
A slow cooker works for this soup, too, if you have time on your side.
Creamy Mayocoba Bean Soup
- 1 pound dried mayocoba beans, rinsed
- 6 cups water
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for serving
- 1 medium onion, about 1 1/2 cups chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
- 6 cups water (or low-sodium chicken broth), plus more to thin soup, if needed
- 2 pieces Parmesan rind (about 2 inches each), optional
- 1 teaspoon salt (omit if using chicken broth), plus more to season after cooking
- Several grindings of black pepper
- 3 bay leaves
- A pinch of red pepper flakes
- 1/2 pound Italian sausage
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup Italian parsley
- 1 or 2 washed lemons
- 1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
Put beans and water in a pot. Bring to a boil and let bubble for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover and let sit for 1 hour. You also could cover the beans with cold water and let them sit for 8 hours.
Drain and rinse beans.
In a large pot, heat the oil on medium. Add the onions and cook, stirring often, until they have softened but not turned color. Add the garlic and cook a minute, until fragrant.
Add the beans to the pot and pour in 6 cups of water. Add the optional cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaves and pepper flakes.
Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer. Cover with the lid slightly ajar and let cook about 1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally, or until the beans are very tender and mash easily when pressed with the back of a spoon. You may need to add some water or broth if the soup seems dry.
When the beans are close to being done, remove the sausage from the casings and cook until done and slightly crispy. Drain and keep warm.
Make the gremolata. Put the parsley on a cutting board and chop coarsely. Grate about 1 tablespoon of lemon on top of the parsley. Add the garlic. Continue to chop the mixture until the parsley and garlic are finely chopped. Cover and set aside until serving.
Use the back of a large spoon or a potato masher to crush about half of the beans to make a creamy soup. Taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper, as needed.
Top with a drizzle of olive oil, some cooked sausage, a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese and about a tablespoon of the gremolata. Makes 6 to 8 servings.
Variations: Replace the Italian sausage with chorizo. Replace all or half of the parsley with cilantro. Replace the lemon zest with 1 teaspoon lime zest. Add a sprinkle of crumbled cotijo cheese to the garnishes.