Simple White Bean Soup with Smoked Paprika Oil, Feta and Kalamata Olives

Have you heard of soup bling? It's my favorite way to fancy up easy soups, like this simple white bean soup with smoked paprika oil, feta, and kalamata olives. 


Because there's so many gems from the past on my blog, I'm going back and refreshing and republishing some old recipes. This recipe was originally published January 2014. 

Sometimes I get a little overly ambitious with my weeknight cooking. Every Sunday morning, I relax in front of the TV with a couple cookbooks and plan my weekly menu. In my chill, Sunday morning mode, I tend to forget the frantic pace of weeknights and plan a few meals that might not lend themselves to making it on the dinner table in 45 minutes or less. When I run across a gorgeous recipe for chicken enchiladas with a homemade enchilada sauce, I say YES. And why not make the corn tortillas from scratch while we're at it? Lentil meatballs that require cooking lentils, cleaning, chopping and sautéing 5 types of vegetables, letting the mixture cool for 25 minutes, forming 25 meatballs and roasting for half an hour sounds totally do-able for a night I have yoga practice at 7 pm, right? Even breakfast isn't immune. The week I made smoked salmon and fried egg sandwiches I was late to work every day. Worth it.


With everything going on right now - work, blogging, maintaining a social life and marriage, trying (and failing) to catch up on scrapbooking 4 years of travel and wedding pictures - I've been making a conscious effort to simplify my meals. So, dinner has been lots of eggs and soup. If you don't like frittatas or vegetable soup, you might want to go ahead and unsubscribe.

Bean soups have always been a regular on our dinner table. Don't let the simple ingredients list on this recipe scare you off. Even without the garnishes, it packs a ton of flavor, much more than I expected. The basic vegetables in this recipe, which you probably already have in your refrigerator, sautéed in the fat rendered from a bit of pancetta is enough to make a full-flavored soup. 


Although dry beans take longer to cook, I like to use them in this recipe because the texture is so soft and creamy. Canned white beans are perfectly fine to use, but they don't soak up as much flavor from the broth. 

Now, let's talk soup bling. I like to take a simple soup and garnish it with lots of yummy things to fancy it up. I do this pretty frequently with store bought creamy soups (my current favorite is carrot-cashew-ginger bisque from Pacific). A dollop of Greek yogurt...leftover shredded rotisserie chicken...toasted nuts...fresh herbs....literally anything in your fridge will do. 


For this soup, I made a simple sauce from 101 Cookbooks, which is appropriately named magic sauce. This mixture of peppery extra-virgin olive oil, smoked paprika, garlic, and warming herbs is the perfect little condiment to keep on hand. It magically transforms simply prepared foods into a memorable meal. This recipe makes extra, which you can drizzle over grilled vegetables, toss with fingerling potatoes before roasting, or with cooked whole grains and toasted nuts for a side dish. I even love it drizzled over scrambled eggs. 

Simple White Bean Soup



  • 2 cups dry white cannelini beans
  • 2 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
  • 1 cup onion, finely diced
  • 1 cup celery, finely diced
  • 1 carrot, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups vegetable broth or water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 bay leaf

Rosemary-smoked paprika oil:

  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh thyme, minced
  • 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, minced
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1 cloves garlic, smashed into a paste
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

For serving:

  • Feta cheese, crumbled
  • Oil cured black olives, chopped
  • Rosemary-smoked paprika oil


  1. Soak the white beans in a large bowl of water overnight. 
  2. Heat a large pot on medium-high heat. Add pancetta and saute until fat is rendered, about 2-3 minutes. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic. Saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add drained beans, broth, salt, and bay leaf and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmer about 1 1/2 hours until beans are tender, adding more water or broth if needed. Once tender (test a couple beans to make sure), season with salt and pepper as desired. Remove the bay leaf and discard.
  3. While soup is cooking, make the rosemary-paprika oil. Warm the oil in a small skillet on medium-low heat. When it's hot, remove from heat. Lightly pound the rosemary, thyme, oregano to bruise. Add to the oil along with the paprika, garlic, red pepper flakes and lemon juice. 
  4. When soup is ready, ladle the soup into bowls and serve garnished with feta, olives and a drizzle magic sauce.

More dressed up simple soups:

Curried Corn Soup

Curried Corn Soup

Kabocha, Kale and Roasted Garlic Soup

Kabocha, Kale and Roasted Garlic Soup

Creamy Spinach Apple Soup with Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich

Creamy Spinach Apple Soup with Grilled Goat Cheese Sandwich

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