Chicken and Vegetable Bean Soup

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 Fennel, tomatoes, and rosemary lend a Mediterranean note to this bean soup. Serve it with focaccia and a crisp green salad, with gelato for dessert. This hearty recipe can easily be made into a tasty meatless version by omitting the chicken.

1  cup dry great northern beans
6  cups water
1  cup chopped onion
1  medium fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
2  medium carrots, chopped
2  cloves garlic, minced
2  tablespoons snipped fresh parsley
1  teaspoon dried rosemary, crushed
1/4  teaspoon pepper
4-1/2  cups chicken broth
2-1/2  cups shredded or chopped cooked chicken
1   14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes, undrained
1. Rinse beans; drain. In a large saucepan, combine beans and the 6 cups water.
Bring to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, uncovered, for 10 minutes. Remove from heat. Cover and let stand for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.
2. Meanwhile, in a 3-1/2-, 4-, or 5-quart crockery cooker, combine onion, fennel,
carrots, garlic, parsley, rosemary, and pepper. Place beans atop vegetables. Pour chicken broth over all. 

3. Cover; cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to 5

4. If using low-heat setting, turn to high-heat setting. Stir in chicken and tomatoes.
Cover and cook for 30 minutes longer or until heated through on high-heat setting. Makes 4 to 6 servings.

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