It's the 3rd week of January, so it must be my annual time to cook my Tuscan White bean, Kale, and Sausage soup. I was not conscious of the fact that this is the chosen week. However, google photos once again reminded me of how much of a habituated person I can be... apparently included in my kitchen. My memories from 1,2, and 3 years ago for this week in January were all, you guessed it, THIS soup.
2019, I first found a version of this soup due to an abundance of kale obtained from one of my favorite growers at our local farmers market and my recent discovery of Cranberry beans, which at the time I had developed quite a fondness of.
If you have heard me talk about this soup on my instagram or elsewhere on social media, you know I refer to it as "the soup an Italian grandmother would welcome you inside with on a dreary winter day after laborious hours of work... or honestly, just needing a dose of true warm, home cooking.
Something about winter greatly disuades me from enjoying the large fresh green salads that sound so appetizing every fall and spring. My body still craves vegetables and greens, just in a warm and spiced form. It is the perfect time to try out those new soup recipes, break out your favorite masala, curry, or chili recipes. Really anything to make us feel cozy and distracted from our looming gloom as a symptom of the shorter days.
Even with being on the flip side of the winter solstice, 5:30pm still feels far too early for darkness and leaves me longing for those 9pm summer nights in the garden or outside with family and friends.
So if you, like many of us, need a large dose of warmth and comfort amidst this third wave of Covid, look no further.
There are similar recipes floating around for this soup, however, below is what I have adapted and come habituated to make over the last four years. As with all of my recipes both at inception and repetition; they are living documents. They are flexible to preference and desire of the given moment you are making for yourself or to share with others. We are all about teaching the foundation and principles at A Handful of Honey and seeing where you go with it after passing it off to you.
My proportions seem to always change a bit from what I have actually written down for my recipe. I do understand the frustration that may come with telling you that as when I try to ask my mom for the recipe to our family's annual chili and jumbalaya tradition she says " I don't know. I chop things and add more until it looks right." Though I understand her in retrospect as I approach my own favorite recipes in the same way, as the recipient of said recipe, I desperately search for a clearer answer.
For this purpose, I have given amounts for each item, however, you will discover over time what proportions you most prefer. This year in my attempt to utilize some more sad than I would like to admit kale, I used about a bunch and a half rather than just one, added garlic from my garden for the first year, and added 2 extra carrots. Why you may ask? Our co-op only had the large bag of organic carrots which switched my meal plan for the week to largely revolve around carrots.
It is also important to note that it is not solely the winter gloom encouraging this week every year to ilicit a desire for Italian soup making, but it is also the perfect time for the ingredients to be in season, at least in most parts of the US. Frost tolerant kale and storage capable cabbage and carrots make perfect produce center pieces for January. My favorite part of this recipe, however, is how filling and dense it is with still only utilizing 1lb of meat for a massive pot of soup. When trying to feed a crowd on a budget, this can be a trusty go to.
* A note on the kale. I am a huge fan of the "waste not, want not" mentality in the kitchen. HOWEVER, for the purpose of this recipe, I do stick by the principle of de-stemming the kale. If I am sautéing up chard or collard greens, I am a big fan of chopping up the spines separately and throwing them in with my aromatics to sauté longer similar to how I would treat celery before adding in the leafy green of the plant. For the purpose of this soup's texture however, skip it this time.
The time line of this soup's simmer time is LOOSE. If you are using dried or pre soaked beans vs canned beans, this will largely depend on when your beans are cooked to your doneness preference. Is "doneness" even a word? Regardless, the longer this soup simmers, the better. The starch of the beans and potatoes will release and the soup will thicken up quite a bit. I personally believe this soup is one that improves over time. So, if you can plan ahead and cook a day before planned consumption, even better. Or do what we typically do and just plan for leftovers.
Let's get to it!
- 1 lb ground sausage (I prefer a spicy Italian, but mild will also work)
- 1/2 Small Head Green Cabbage
- 1 - 1.5 heads of Kale (De-stemmed)
- 3-4 Peeled Carrots
- 3-4 Russet or Yukon Potatoes
- 4 Celery Stalks
- 7(ish) cups vegetable or chicken broth (Sometimes I use bullion cubes for some of the cups)
- 2-3 cups water (It really depends on how much broth you prefer in your soup)
- 1.5 to 2 Dried then soaked Cranberry Beans (or two cans of Cannelloni beans, however, add when you add the greens instead)
- 2 tsp minced garlic (Or to taste. We eat a LOT of garlic in this house)
- 1 large or 2 small yellow onions
- Sea Salt (1-2 tsp)
- Black Pepper (1-2 tsp)
- Italian Seasoning OR
- 1-2 tbls Oregano
- 1 tbls Rosemary chopped
- 1/2 tbls chopped thyme
- Pinch of paprika
- Pinch of fennel if not in the sausage
- Cayenne Powder and chili flakes to heat preference
* Taste it and see how you would like to adjust. This is a good base though*
1. Sauté ground sausage in the bottom of your stock pot with a little olive oil
2. While the Sausage is browning, chop the onion, garlic, celery, and carrots
3. Throw chopped aromatics in with the sausage and add salt and pepper and sauté until slightly softened
4. While the aromatics are sautéing, peel and chop the potatoes
5. Add potatoes, soaked cranberry beans, and liquids to your pot
6. Add the rest of the seasonings
7. Cover and simmer for 1-1.5 hrs
8. De-stem and chop the kale and chop half head of cabbage
9. Add greens to your pot and simmer for an additional 1-1.5 hrs
- Check seasoning and the doneness of your beans if using soaked dried beans
- Best enjoyed the day after cooking and the days following