Savory Bean and Ham Soup, with Spinach

Not sure what to do with that wonderful leftover holiday ham? Try this recipe. It’s been a family favorite for many years. Go easy on the salt and watch the beans very carefully so they don’t turn to mush. If you’re not sure how many guests you will be serving, or are planning leftovers, *reserve the spinach and add it to each bowl as needed. This will ensure freshness and a vibrant, colorful presentation. Enjoy!


2 14.5 oz. cans Great Northern beans, rinsed
1 49.5 oz. can chicken broth
3 or 4 cups diced ham (cut in 1/4″ cubes)
1 large yellow onion, diced
3 large cloves garlic, minced
1 stalk celery with greens, diced
4 generous handfuls Farfalle (bowtie) pasta
4 cups fresh baby spinach, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp. dry thyme, crushed in a mortar
1 tbs. dry parsley flakes
1 large dry bay leaf
3 tbs. XV olive oil
2 tbs. salted butter
2 tbs. flour
Salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste



Preheat a 5-quart soup pot or cast-iron Dutch oven over medium-low heat. Add the diced onion, celery, garlic, olive oil and butter. Sauté carefully for about ten minutes until the vegetables have softened. Do not allow them to scorch. Add the flour. Stir constantly for another five minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring to a low simmer, stirring occasionally.

Next, add the diced ham and dry spices. Stir and simmer partially covered over low heat for about 20-30 minutes. Add the pasta and beans and cook the pasta until just al dente, about 11-12 minutes. Shut off the heat and *add the spinach before serving.

Makes about 3 quarts
Serves 4-6


Beef and Black Bean Soup

Slow and low are key to this great recipe with a hint of Southwest flair.


1 pound ground beef

2 cans (14.5 oz each) chicken broth
1 can (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes – undrained
8 fresh scallions, thin sliced
3 carrots, peeled and thin sliced
2 celery ribs, thin sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1 tbs. sugar
1 1/2 tsp. dry basil
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. dry oregano
1/2 tsp. cumin – toasted and ground from seed
1/2 tsp. chili powder

2 cans (15 oz. each) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups cooked rice


Cook beef in skillet until browned. Drain. Transfer to slow cooker with next 12 ingredients.

Cover and cook on HIGH for one hour. Reduce heat to low and cook for 4-5 hours until veggies are tender.

Add beans and rice and cook for one additional hour until heated through.

Makes 2.5 quarts.

Spicy Bean and Ham Soup

This is a wonderful recipe from my friend Ann.  Serve on a cold day with some home-baked bread and butter, and a nice tossed side salad.


1 ham shank with bone, smoked, and cut by butcher on a bone saw into four equal pieces (I use Clem Becker brand)
2 quarts water (8 cups)
2 cups assorted dry soup beans
2 large 28 oz. cans stewed tomatoes
1 huge spanish onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, roasted and minced*
Juice of one fresh lemon
1 tbs. pure chimayo chili powder
1 tsp. dried thyme
1 tbs. dried mexican oregano
2 ribs celery, diced
2 potatoes with skins on, scrubbed and cut into 1/2″ cubes
3 carrots, skinned and chopped
1 green bell pepper, fine chopped
1 cup frozen peas
1/4 tsp. cayenne powder or dash tabasco sauce to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish with chopped scallion.


Wash beans, cover with cold water and soak overnight with two tbs. salt. The next day, rinse the ham shank quarters under cold water and add to a heavy 6-quart stock pot with 2 quarts fresh water. Cover, heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for three hours. Pull bones from meat and discard. Place meat on cutting board, trim excess fat, shred into smaller chunks with two forks and add back to pot. Bring back to slow simmer, uncovered, and add the tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, lemon juice, spices and chili powder.

Drain the beans and add to the stock pot during the third hour; they should be simmered for no more than two hours or they will be overcooked. (They may be done in under 1.5 hours.)

Simmer one additional hour. You may need to add a bit more water to compensate for evaporation. Skim fat off top of pot and discard. During this time, add the remainder of ingredients, noting to add the potatoes and carrots after 1/2 hour, and the bell pepper and peas during the last ten minutes.

Use the cayenne powder to control the heat, and the chili powder as a flavor base. The smoked ham is quite salty, so taste often before you add more salt. At the most, I add one teaspoon, but everyone is different.

*To roast garlic cloves, place cloves with husks in a heavy-bottom skillet and heat to medium, turning often. The husks will blacken slightly and give off a wonderful aroma. Remove from heat, let cool on cutting board. Trim the hard tip off of each garlic clove and the garlic will pop right out when squeezed. Smash the garlic with the side of a butcher knife, mince and you’re all set.

Beans can be bought in pre-mixed packages containing navy, baby limas, black, split peas, lentils, great northern, garbanzo, anasazi, kidney and pinto. These are available in many supermarkets so you don’t have to mix them yourself.

This dish is wonderful left over and freezes well.
Serves 8 comfortably.