cannellini bean purée with barley

crema di fagioli e orzo

4 servings

While the bean puree itself is delicious, it's the addition of the herb and garlic flecked barley that makes this soup a knockout. Cooked till just al dente, the barley adds welcome texture, while the fresh herbs add a ton of flavor and some brightness to the bowl.  




Place beans in large bowl. Cover with cold water by 3 inches and let soak overnight.

Drain beans. Place in heavy medium pot. Add 5 cups cold water and onion. Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until beans are very tender, adding water as necessary to keep beans covered by about 1/2 inch, 50 minutes to 1 1/2 hours (depending on freshness of beans). 
Meanwhile, bring a medium pot of salted water (at least 3 cups) to a boil; add barley, reduce heat to medium-low and gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 45 minutes. Drain.
When beans are tender, transfer with liquid and onion to a blender; carefully purée until smooth. Strain purée through a fine-mesh sieve back into pot; discard bean skins. Whisk in 1 1/2 tablespoons oil and heat gently to warm through; season generously with salt and pepper. Add water to thin soup to your liking, if desired. 

In a large nonstick skillet, heat remaining tablespoon oil over medium-high heat. Add barley and garlic clove; cook, stirring frequently, for 2 minutes. Stir in herbs and cook 1 minute more. Remove and discard garlic clove. Season barley with salt and pepper. 

Ladle soup into bowls; spoon barley on top. Sprinkle with a little extra salt.