White Bean and Barley Soup

adapted from Eating Well

1 1/2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 medium fennel bulb, cored and chopped

5 cloves garlic, peeled and minced

1 tsp dried basil

2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1 14-ounce can fire-roasted diced tomatoes

6 cups vegetable broth

3/4 cup quick cooking barley

6 oz package baby spinach (about 6 cups)

1/4  cup grated Parmesan cheese

1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Heat oil in a Dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add the onion, fennel, garlic, and basil.  Stirring frequently, cook the mixture until it begins to brown, about 8 minutes.

Mash about 1 cup of the beans.  Add the mashed beans, remaining whole beans, tomatoes, broth and barley into the pot and stir.  Bring the mixture to a boil.  Reduce the heat to medium and simmer.  Stir the mixture occasionally, until the barley is tender, about 15 minutes.  

Stir in the spinach leaves cooking until wilted.  Remove the mixture from the heat and stir in the cheese and pepper.

Notes:  The soup may be refrigerated for up to three days.  It freezes well for up to six months.