White Bean Soup with Smoked Ham
- 3/4 cup dried small white, white kidney or cannellini beans
- 6 fresh parsley sprigs
- 2 fresh thyme sprigs
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 Tbs. olive oil
- 1/4 lb. bacon, finely diced
- 1 yellow onion, minced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 smoked ham hocks, 1 lb. total
- 1 1/2 cups peeled, seeded and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 3 Tbs. chopped fresh mint, plus mint sprigs for garnish (optional)
- Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
While the beans are cooking, in a soup pot over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the bacon and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until the onion is soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and continue to cook for 1 minute. Add the ham hocks, tomatoes and chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook, uncovered, until the ham just begins to fall from the bone, about 1 hour. Add the beans and continue to simmer until the ham falls from the bones and the beans are very tender, about 1 hour more.
Remove the ham hocks from the soup and set aside until cool enough to handle. Discard the skin and bones and cut the meat into 1/2-inch pieces. Add the ham and chopped mint to the soup, stir well and season with salt and pepper.
Ladle the soup into warmed bowls, garnish with mint sprigs, if using, and serve immediately.