Tuscan Bean, Sausage & Kale Soup

Soup... it's what's for dinner! When the weather is cold and dreary, the best way to embrace it is with a warm, comforting bowl of soup at our house. My husband has been hankering for Olive Garden's 'Zuppa Toscana' soup since it's a staple soup of ours. However, I wanted something different. Besides, we had a ton of dry beans in the pantry just itching to make it's way into a dish. I came across a Tuscan Bean Soup recipe in a cookbook and to jazz it up, I added some sausage and kale. As a result, this Tuscan Bean, Sausage & Kale Soup made it's way to the table and into our bellies. It hit the spot perfectly on this cool fall evening... This soup is very similar to the Zuppa Toscana we love. Instead of potatoes, cannellini beans are used. I wouldn't recommend using canned beans for this recipe if you want to use your slow cooker. However if you want to make this soup on the stovetop, feel free to use canned and just cook it until everything's warmed through. I will say if you go the stovetop route, you won't get the same depth of flavors that slow cooking imparts. For the sausage, you can add it a variety of ways. I cooked the sausage, cut it in rounds and then added it to the soup. We like the bite and texture it gives to the soup. But another alternative is to remove the sausage from the casings and sauté in a pan before adding to the soup. By doing this, you'll have meaty flavor sprinkled throughout the soup. Lastly, the kale is added fresh just before serving. Since the kale is sliced so thinly, it takes no time at all to cook through just from the heat of the soup. Add as little or as much as you'd like as you ladle the soups into bowls and don't forget that touch of Parmesan cheese and drizzle of olive oil to complete the dish. This is perfect with some good crusty bread to sop up that flavorful broth!