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In a large heavy bottomed pan, cook the bacon over medium heat. Remove bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the bacon fat.
Add vegetables to pan and cook until onions are translucent and carrots and celery are beginning to soften, 4-5 minutes.
Add garlic and tomato paste and cook, stirring, for another minute or until fragrant.
Add chicken broth, water, beans, bay leaves, thyme, salt, pepper, and half of bacon. Bring to boil, reduce to simmer and cook, partially covered, for 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are soft.
Remove about half of the soup, and puree the remaining soup using either a hand-held immersion blender or a traditional blender. Stir blended and unblended soup together and add remaining bacon, reserving some to garnish, if desired.