White Bean Stew with Winter Squash and Leeks


Winter squash makes a great partner for white beans—or most types of beans for that matter. It sweetens the broth as it simmers, as do the leeks. This is a perfect winter stew. The method is slightly different from the template, as I cook the beans separately for a while and then add the vegetables to them; I also use fewer beans. So I’ve presented this as a stand-alone recipe.

¾ pound white beans (such as navy, cannellini, or lima beans)
1 onion, cut in half lengthwise
1 garlic clove, crushed; plus 2 to 4 large garlic cloves (to taste), minced
1 bouquet garni: a couple sprigs each parsley and thyme, 1 bay leaf, 2 sage leaves, and a Parmesan rind wrapped in cheesecloth
7 to 8 cups water, as needed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 large or medium leeks, well cleaned and chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1 pound winter squash, such as butternut, peeled and diced
1 tablespoon slivered sage
Freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino for garnish (optional)

  1. Unless you are using lima beans, soak the beans for 4 hours or longer in 2 quarts water.
  2. Drain the beans and transfer to a heavy pot or Dutch oven. Add the halved onion, crushed garlic clove, bouquet garni, and 7 cups water. Bring to a gentle boil and cover. Reduce the heat and simmer for 1 hour. Remove and discard the onion and crushed garlic clove.
  3. Heat the olive oil over medium heat in a heavy skillet. Add the leeks and a generous pinch of salt and cook, stirring, until the leeks soften, about 5 minutes. Do not brown. Add the minced garlic and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  4. Stir the leeks and garlic into the beans. Add the diced squash and bring back to a simmer. If the ingredients are not covered with liquid, add another ½ to 1 cup of water. Add salt to taste (about 2 teaspoons or more; beans need a lot of salt), cover, and simmer until the beans are thoroughly tender and the squash is so tender that it is beginning to fall apart, 30 minutes to 1 hour. Stir in the slivered sage and pepper to taste. Taste and adjust salt. Remove and discard the bouquet garni. Serve, garnishing each bowl with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino if desired.

ADVANCE PREPARATION: The cooked beans will keep for 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator and freeze well.