Sort and wash beans; place in a large Dutch oven. Cover with water to 2 inches above beans; bring to a boil. Cook 2 minutes. Remove from heat; cover and let stand 1 hour.
Drain beans; return to pan. Add 8 cups water and next 5 ingredients (water through pepper); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 1 1/2 hours. Add onion and next 5 ingredients (onion through garlic); simmer, uncovered, 50 minutes or until vegetables are tender. Stir in tomato paste; cook an additional 10 minutes. Ladle soup into bowls, and sprinkle with cheese.
OUTSTANDING! My husband is a picky eater, hates beans, and often forgets to compliment even dishes he likes. Each time I serve this soup, he never fails to say, "Man this is delicious!" It's my favorite soup, too. Has a real depth and subtlety of flavor, as well as being rich and hearty. I prepare it exactly as written, and serve with crusty bread.
This was fairly good-- a great recipe to use a lot of veggies and be filling and low fat. It does seem to be a bit plain, even though I added more wine and used vegetable stock instead of water (both I happened to have on hand). It's almost like it needs a bit of spice. I ended up putting a dab of spicy BBQ sauce on top and it was better.
OUTSTANDING! This was quite a delight. Easy to fix, and the whole family loved it. Only suggestion is to cook the beans a shorter time before adding the vegetables. I used chicken broth instead of water, but to keep it completely vegetarian, that wouldn't be necessary. We had this as an informal New Years Day supper, served with a crusty bread. You've just GOT TO try this. What a way to dress up Navy beans!
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