Greek Bean Soup (Fassolada)

Ever notice how simple foods can be extraordinarily good? Think of the way a margherita pizza makes you feel. Fresh and bursting with flavor—it delights us in its simplicity.

Now if I’d said Greek Bean Soup  instead of margherita pizza, you likely would have stared at your screen saying “okay, whatever Barb” because chances are it’s not a soup that’s on your radar. But…that may change, if you open your mind to this simple and tasty soup.

I’ve been making this soup quite frequently ever since I discovered it in my Three Sisters Around the Greek Table cookbook. The ponytails love it and it is easy to make—it just takes some time to cook, and you need plan ahead and soak the beans overnight. It is a very healthy vegetarian meal and boy is it budget friendly.

This bean soup, also called Fassolada or fasolada, can be traced back to ancient Greece and is referred to in many cookery books as the traditional Greek dish. Apparently ancient Greeks devoted a whole day to the celebration of fassolada. (As much as I do like the soup, a day devoted to it is way over the top. But hey, after several glasses of ouzo anything is possible.) For many Greek cooks, such as my friend Kerassia (my authority on all things Greek, whom I’ve mentioned before), fassolada is a weekly staple in their kitchen.

There are likely as many versions of this soup, as there are cooks. I’ve changed the soup extensively from the Three Sisters’ version — but I must attribute adding the potato and pureeing it with a cup of the soup to this cookbook.

Greek Bean Soup

  • 1-½  cups navy beans, dried (or medium white greek beans)
  • 6-½ cups water
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 3 celery stalks, diced
  • 1 medium onion, minced
  • 1 pinch red pepper flakes
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small potato, peeled
  • 2 tbsps olive oil
  • 1-½ cups crushed tomato sauce
  • 1- ½ tsp salt
  • 1 tsp oregano (preferably greek)

Optional Garnishes

  • chopped fresh parsley
  • crumbled feta cheese
  • lemon wedges

Directions  

  1. Place the beans in a bowl, cover completely with water, and let them soak overnight.
  2. Drain and rinse beans. Place in a large stock pot and cover with water. Bring to boil over high heat for 10 minutes.
  3. Drain beans in a strainer and return to pot. Add water, carrots, celery, onion, red pepper flakes, potato and bay leaf. Bring to boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
  4. Remove bay leaf and add tomato sauce, salt and olive oil and cook for another 45 minutes to 1 hour (until beans are tender).
  5. Place potato and 1 cup of soup in a bowl and puree with hand blender until smooth. Return puree to the pot and stir.
  6. Taste and adjust seasoning, if required.
  7. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with feta, parsley and a squeeze of lemon (optional).

 TIPS/NOTES

  • After talking to Kerassia, and researching the best way to cook beans, I discovered that the key to softening the beans is to not add tomato (because of the acidity) or salt until they are almost cooked.
  • I replace the navy beans with medium white greek beans that I buy at a local shop here in Toronto called Ararat International Fine Foods. They are quite a bit larger than navy beans and a great option if you can find them.
  • Kerassia doesn’t add the potato (and puree it with the cup of soup). You can eliminate the potato and this step if you prefer.