This is such a throwback to my childhood! I loved the bean and bacon soup in the red and white can. However, as an adult, when I tried that childhood favorite, I was sorely disappointed. So, I set out to make my own version of this warm and comforting soup. And I just have to say, the results are delicious! This is my all-time favorite soup to eat with grilled cheese sandwiches and my kids LOVE it. Seriously. The 1 1/2-year-old had two huge servings and the 4-year-old kept telling me how yummy it was. Score!
This does take a few more steps compared to the canned version. But it is worth it. Trust me!
1 pound smoky bacon, cut into chunks*
1 onion, diced
3-4 stalks of celery, diced
3 carrots, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons tomato paste
5 cups chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 cans great northern (or white) beans
Salt and pepper
In a Dutch oven, cook bacon chunks until crisp. Remove with a slotted spoon onto a plate lined with paper towels, then remove all but 2 tablespoons of bacon fat. To the bacon fat in the Dutch oven, add onion, celery, and carrots over medium heat. Season with salt and pepper and sauté for 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional minute.
Sprinkle in the flour, stir and cook for 2 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook another minute. Whisk in chicken stock, add bay leaves and cook on medium-low heat for 15-20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small blender or food processor, mince your cooked bacon. This is optional, of course, but so worth it. Bacon bits in every bite!
Add the beans and bacon and simmer on low heat for 30 minutes. Taste for seasonings and remove the bay leaves. Serve in big bowls and enjoy!
*Cook's Note: We've used low-sodium bacon and found it didn't have enough taste, so we added about 1/4-1/2 teaspoon liquid smoke at the same time as the chicken stock and that added the smoky flavor we were looking for.