The combination of beans, greens, some sort of meat and stock, is my go-to base for an easy, hearty soup dinner, perfect for a winter weeknight. I really enjoy making all of the long-cooking parts — chicken stock, beans — from scratch so I have the most control over seasonings. Thankfully, both can be cooked up ahead of time and refrigerated for up to a week (the stock can be frozen for several months), so a from-scratch (bonus points if you make your own sausage!), healthy, flavor-packed meal can be on the table in thirty minutes or less. This soup is quite spicy — use sweet Italian sausage and/or eliminate the red pepper flakes if you prefer more mild heat levels — making it an even better way to warm up on a chilly evening.
Tuscan Bean Soup with Sausage and Kale
Preparation Time: 30 minutes
Inactive Preparation Time: About 3 hours (for dried beans)
- 1/2 pound (227 grams) dried Rancho Gordo runner cannellini beans or other larger dried white bean (i.e. great northern), soak overnight, covered, in the refrigerator
- 6″ sprig fresh rosemary
- 2-3 cups cooked, rinsed and drained white beans
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) olive oil
- 1 tablespoon (14 grams) very thinly sliced garlic
- 1/2 pound (227 grams) hot Italian chicken sausage, remove from casings and form into small balls (about 1/2 teaspoon each)
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 1/2 quarts (24 ounces or 680 grams) homemade chicken stock (or your favorite gluten-free store-bought variety)
- 4 ounces (from about 1 bunch) trimmed (tough stems removed) Tuscan/lacinato/dino kale, cut into 1″ strips
- Pecorino Toscano or Parmesan, finely shredded (optional)
Cook Dried Beans:
(If using precooked beans, skip ahead.) Drain and rinse soaked, dried beans. Place in a 4 quart (or larger) pot, cover with 2 quarts (32 ounces or about 2 liters) water, add sprig of rosemary (no need to remove leaves from stem), and set over high heat. Bring to a hard boil and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cover pot, reduce temperature to low and simmer beans for about 2 1/2 – 3 hours or until softened (may take more or less time depending on the age and size of your beans). Drain beans in a metal colander, rinse with cold water to stop cooking and remove rosemary stem and leaves, allow excess water to drain off while you make the soup.
DO AHEAD: Dried beans can be cooked, rinsed and drained very well up to a week in advance. Store, covered, in the refrigerator until ready to make soup.
In a 4 quart pot, heat olive oil over medium-low heat until shimmering. Add garlic to oil, cook just until it begins to color. Sprinkle in red pepper flakes and add sausage balls in a single layer. Increase heat to medium, and continue to cook until sausage is browned in spots (instead of stirring, I occasionally shake the pot from side to side to get the balls to roll around and cook on more than one side). Stir in chopped rosemary, cooked beans and chicken stock; bring to a simmer. Stir in kale and cook just until tender. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkle of Pecorino or Parmesan, then add salt to taste if necessary.