Tuscan Bean, Sausage & Kale Soup
1 pound dried cannellini beans (2 1/2 cups) rinsed and picked over
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (plus extra for serving)
6 ounces pancetta or bacon, minced
8 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups low sodium chicken broth
3 cups water
5 links sweet Italian sausage, cooked & sliced into rounds
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste
2 cups kale, thinly cut
grated parmesan for serving
Dissolve 3 tablespoons salt in 4 quarts cold water in large bowl or container. Add beans and soak at room temperature for at least 8 hours and up to 24 hours. Drain and rinse well.
Meanwhile, cook the Italian sausage. Heat a pan to a medium temperature. Add 1/2 cup of water and place links in pan. Cover, heat for 10 minutes, turning links once. Remove cover and continue cooking for 10 minutes. Remove sausage from pan and allow to cool until able to handle. Once cooled, cut into rounds and add to the slow cooker.
Heat oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add pancetta/bacon and cook until lightly browned and crisp. Stir in onions, garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until onions are softened and lightly browned. Stir in 1 cup of broth , scraping up any browned bits and transfer to slow cooker.
Stir in remaining 2 cups broth, water, soaked beans, bay leaves, and Italian seasoning. Stir to incorporate all ingredients, cover and cook until beans are tender, about 9-11 hours on low or 5-7 hours on high.
Season with salt and pepper to taste and to serve, ladle soup into bowls, top with 1/4 cup of kale, a sprinkling of grated Parmesan cheese, and a drizzle of olive oil if desired.
Pairs Well With
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!