I made this soup a while ago and wasn't going to post it because I had no good pictures. Soup is one of the less exciting types of dishes to photograph after all. But, I loved how this turned out and didn't want to forget how I made it, so here we are.
The key thing that makes this hearty, stew-like soup so noteworthy is dried beans. The texture and richness they add to the cooking liquid just wouldn't be present if canned beans were used (I have nothing against canned beans! If using them means the difference between cooking and not cooking, then by all means.).
The other things that make the recipe for me are miso paste and sun dried tomatoes.A scoop of light miso is my absolute favorite trick for adding savory depth to hearty greens and slow cooked dishes. The sun dried tomatoes are just tossed in at the end, but they add so much flavor, both sweet and acidic, that they're easily a key ingredient.
I don't know about you, but it's cold and wintry in Chicago today, so writing about soup in April doesn't seem so out of place to me!
Italian White Bean, Sausage and Kale Soup
This is a thick, satisfying soup with layers of Italian flavor and the richness you get from simmering dried beans. I love using light-colored miso to add depth to vegetable-heavy soups and braises like this one. If you don’t want to use it, add 1 to 2 tablespoons of tomato paste, which is also a good umami ingredient, instead. Note that miso adds salt to the soup, while tomato paste is generally very low in sodium.
Serves 6 to 8 as a main course
2 tablespoon olive oil
1 large white onion, chopped
2 to 3 carrots, chopped
3 celery ribs, chopped
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
4 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon light miso (optional, see head note)
4 cups chicken broth
4 cups water, plus more as needed
1 pound Great Northern or Cannellini beans, soaked overnight, rinsed and drained
Nonstick cooking spray
3 fresh Italian turkey sausages (such as Jennie O brand)
14 ounce can diced tomatoes with Italian seasoning
3/4 pound trimmed, chopped curly kale with ribs (1 to 1 1/4 pounds before trimming)
1/3 cup (approx.) chopped sun-dried tomatoes (oil-packed or not)
Pecorino-Romano cheese, for serving
Lemon wedges, for serving
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot on medium-high heat. Add onion, carrots and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 7 minutes. Stir in fennel, oregano, thyme and red pepper flakes and continue cooking until lightly browned, about 5 minutes more. Push vegetables to the side and add garlic and miso. Cook, stirring constantly and breaking up the miso, 2 minutes.
Add broth and 4 cups water, cover and bring to a boil. Add beans, cover and simmer on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until beans are bulked up in size, but still slightly firm, about 1 1/2 hours. If liquid level gets too low, add water as needed; conversely, simmer the soup uncovered if you want some of the liquid to evaporate.
While beans simmer, cook the turkey sausages: Heat a medium skillet on medium-high heat and coat with cooking spray. Squeeze the sausages out of their casings into the skillet. Cook, crumbling meat with your spoon, until cooked through. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and lightly press with another paper towel to drain.
To the soup, add the tomatoes and about half the kale and cover just until wilted. Add remaining kale in this manner, as well as additional water if needed (soup should be thick, but you should still be able to stir it without too much muscle). Simmer until beans are tender, but not falling apart, and kale is very tender, 20 to 30 minutes (tender or Tuscan kale will cook faster). Reduce heat to low and stir in the turkey and sun-dried tomatoes just until heated through. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Shave cheese with a vegetable peeler over each bowl and serve with lemon wedges.