White Bean and Red Kale Soup with Italian Sausage

White Bean and Red Kale Soup with Italian Sausage

Serves 4–6

1 lb. dried Great Northern beans
1 tsp salt
Water as needed
1/4 lb pork rind
Bouquet garni of 1 thyme sprig, 2 bay leaves, 5–6 stalks of parsley, and 3 garlic cloves
Olive oil as needed
1 onion, chopped
2 small carrots, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 lb bacon, chopped
5–6 cups vegetable broth
3 tbsps tomato paste
3 additional cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
1 lb spicy Italian sausages.
1 tablespoon minced parsley
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
4 cups shredded red kale (stems and thick veins removed)
Salt to taste
Freshly-ground black pepper to taste
1 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
Good quality olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees F. Place beans in large (big enough for the finished soup) cast iron Dutch oven with lid. Cover the beans with enough cold water to cover by about 2 inches.  Add 1 tsp salt. Wrap the pork rind in cheese-cloth, add it to the pot. Drop in the Bouquet garni as well. Bring the beans to a low boil on the stovetop, then cover and place in the oven to cook for about 1 1/2 hour.

2. Over medium heat warm about 2 tbsps olive oil in a separate saute pan. Add the onion, carrots, celery. Cook them until just beginning to color.  Add the bacon to the pan and cook until the bacon fat has mostly rendered out and the bacon is beginning to get crisp 6–7 minutes. Deglaze the pan with a little of the vegetable broth, continue to cook until most of the liquid is gone.

3. Remove the beans from the oven. They should be mostly cooked, but still quite chewy. They will finish cooking on the stove top. Using a spoon skim off any of the scummy bubbles that have come to the surface. Discard the pork rind and Bouquet garni.

4. Move the beans to the stove top set to medium-low and add the bacon and vegetable mixture. Add 1 or 2 cups of vegetable broth, just enough to get a thick, soupy mixture. Mix well. Stir in the tomato paste and 3 cloves chopped garlic. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally.

5. Taste the beans. When they are fully cooked, but not mushy. Turn the heat off.  Put about 2 cups of the bean mixture into a small bowl. Use an immersion blender to puree them until smooth. Return them to the pan. Set the pan aside to cool completely.

6. In a separate pan brown the sausages on all sides until mostly cooked. Remove them from the pan and cut them into bite sized pieces. Add them and the pan juices to the pan with the beans.

7. It is best to let the mixture cool completely before continuing. Overnight is great. When ready to serve heat the bean mixture over medium-high heat until they begin to boil. Turn the heat down to simmer. Adjust the consistency with 1 or 2 more cups vegetable broth. It should be thick and soupy with lots of different textures.

8. When the sausages are cooked completely through add the red kale, parsley and thyme. Salt and pepper to taste.

9. Cook until the kale is tender, but maintains it’s leafy form. About 20–30 minutes. Add additional vegetable broth or water if the soup is too thick (though it should be fairly thick).

10.  Ladle into heated soup bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Top each bowl of soup with drizzle of olive oil, if desired.

White Bean and Red Kale Soup with Italian Sausage 

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White Bean and Red Kale Soup with Italian Sausage