Warming Winter Bean Soup

Soup in White Bowl with Greens by Dena T Bray©

The storm of Thanksgiving is over—our guests have gone, the fancy dishes are back in the sideboard, and there's not a crumb of leftovers remaining from the holiday feast. While our home has returned to its usual quiet state, the energy of the love generated during the relaxed holiday weekend is still within our walls. I cherish this time and plan to cultivate and hold on to the calm for as long as possible. The reminders of the next storm to come are everywhere—I can't open my email without finding several holiday sale messages or turn on the radio without being reminded to do my part for the economy by spending more. I am no Scrooge—I love giving and receiving gifts for Hanukkah and Christmas as much as anyone—but when the buying and spending seems to outweigh everything else, cynicism rears its ugly head.

Our daughter's middle school chorus concert was the perfect antidote last night. Watching and listening to young people singing songs that ranged from the Lion King theme to excerpts from Pippin, I was thrilled by the positive energy and love that went into every note uttered, every dance movement choreographed and every hand clap from the adoring community audience. I took part in that gift last night and feel immensely satisfied. Those feelings of joy and satisfaction will sustain me in the weeks ahead.

Soup Vegetables on Linen by Dena T Bray©
Beans on Linen Dena T BrayⒸ
Soup in White Bowl by Dena T Bray©

Few things are more calming and soothing than a pot of soup simmering on the stove top. The most remarkable thing about this Pinto Bean Soup with Parsnips and Beefis how relatively unremarkable ingredients come together to form a delicious meal. Brown beans are soaked and cooked in a rich beef broth, then combined with onions, carrots, a few spices, and meat. While the addition of parsnips adds a bit of sweetness to the flavors, the bits of beef turn a light soup into a satisfying meal. Served with a loaf of fresh bread and a platter of cheeses, this soup will sustain you.

I hope your holiday season is starting out well and filled with song.

I look forward to seeing you in my kitchen, gathering flavors, soon.


Soup in White Bowls with Parsley by Dena T Bray©


Yield: 8 to 10 Servings


  • 2 cups dried pinto beans, picked over and rinsed
  • 1 meaty beef bone, trimmed of excess fat
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 large yellow onions, peeled and sliced thinly
  • 4 carrots, peeled, rinsed and chopped to large dice
  • 4 parsnips, peeled, rinsed and chopped to large dice
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and minced finely
  • 2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 8 cups stock (beef or vegetable)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley, rinsed and lightly chopped
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. The night before you plan to make the soup, place beans in a large soup pot and cover with cool water.
  2. The next day, place the soaking beans on the stove top. Bring water to boil, then lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer the beans until tender, one to two hours depending on their freshness. Be sure to stir them occasionally and skim foam off as needed. Drain the cooked beans and set aside.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.  Place the meat bone on a half sheet pan and roast in oven until the meat is well browned, about 15 to 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.
  4. In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the onions, carrots and parsnips. Toss to coat with olive oil and cook the vegetables until they begin to brown, about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes and oregano. Toss with the vegetables and cook until fragrant. This should take a minute or two. Put the vegetables in the bottom of a large soup pot. Pour a bit of the stock into the pan used to cook the vegetables. Bring to a boil and scrape any bits of vegetables stuck to the bottom of the pan. Add them to the large soup pot. Add the reserved beans to the pot along with the cooked beef, bay leaves and enough stock to cover the ingredients. Bring the liquid to a boil, give everything a good stir, then reduce the temperature to a simmer.
  5. Simmer the soup, uncovered, until the vegetables and meat are very tender, about one hour. Remove from stove-top and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Using heat proof tongs, remove the bay leaves, beef bone, and beef from the soup pot. Discard the bay leaves and bone. Place the cooked beef on a cutting board and cut into bite-sized pieces. Set aside.
  7. Add most of the parsley to the soup pot, reserving a few pieces for garnish. Using an immersion blender, purée the soup. If the soup is thicker than you like, add more stock or water.
  8. Put the soup pot back on the stove-top. Add the reserved beef. Stir. Bring it to a boil. Stir again and reduce the temperature to a simmer. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Stir once more
  9. When the soup is heated through,  divide between eight serving bowls. Garnish with fresh parsley.
  10. Enjoy.


  1. You can can substitute black or navy beans or a combination of both for an equally delicious soup.
  2. To make a vegetarian soup, leave out the beef and use vegetable stock.
  3. For a lighter soup, substitute lamb or pork for the beef and use chicken stock.
  4. If you don't care for parsnips, substitute chunks of sweet potatoes or butternut squash.
  5. For a full meal, serve with chilled cider,Savory Parmesan Scones, a platter of smoked meats and cheeses, a Winter Greens Salad with Kale, Tahini and Lime and Spice Cupcakes with Brown Butter Frosting for dessert.
  6. This soup can be made in a slow-cooker. Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

Simple Beans in White Bowl Dena T BrayⒸ