3/4 - 1 lb cannellini, baby lima, or navy beans
1 lb rice
1/2 cup oil
1 15 oz can chopped tomatoes
1/4 lb grated Parmesan cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 teaspoon each basil and oregano flakes
1 teaspoon low sodium chicken base (or bouillon)
1 onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/2 hot red pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
salt and pepper, to taste
Soak beans overnight. Wash, drain, and pick over beans, removing any imperfect ones.
Cover beans in a good quantity of lightly salted water and bring to a boil. Simmer, uncovered, over very low heat until beans are tender.
In a large saucepan, heat olive oil and saute the chopped onion, celery, and hot pepper until the onions begin to brown (about 10 minutes). Add garlic. (Tip: chopped vegetables briefly in a food processor).
Stir in tomatoes (4 chopped ripe, fresh tomatoes may be substituted when in season). Add the beans, basil and oregano (again, fresh herbs may be substituted, when available) chicken base (or bouillon) and the water in which they were cooked. Remove from heat and set aside or refrigerate until 20 minutes before ready to serve.
Bring soup to a boil. Add rice and cook over high heat, stirring frequently. Add hot water (or broth if you have some) as needed to keep the soup at the desired consistency.
The rice will be cooked after 20 minutes or so. Taste and add salt and pepper, to taste, and adjust other seasonings, if desired.
Serve soup sprinkled with freshly grated Parmesan cheese.
Optional: Serve with crusty portions of Italian bread sprinkled with Parmesan cheese, then toasted or grilled.
Drizzle lightly with olive oil dressing infused with a pinch of minced garlic, oregano, basil, red pepper flakes and chopped oil cured black olives.
Slices of sweet vinegar peppers and grilled pork chops are a traditional accompaniment.
Note: Chicken base is a product which has the consistency of a paste and is made commercially by boiling down chicken soup for long periods of time until the water is removed. It keeps well under refrigeration. It is used as a replacement for chicken bouillon (which may be substituted when chicken base is not available) or better yet, use chicken stock if you have it.