Sunday, February 24, 2013

Kale, Sausage & Cannellini Bean Soup

My new favorite veggie is kale. The first time I ever tried kale was at our 2012 office Christmas luncheon at Industriel Urban Farm Cuisine in Downtown LA. For the salad course we had baby kale with bacon, panko, parmesan and white anchovies tossed lightly in a roasted garlic bacon dressing. Loved it! Not sure why I never had the inclination to try kale before - probably because I assumed it would chewy and really bitter, kind of like mustard greens (which I like, but certainly not raw). Kale does have more texture than, say, spinach, but the key is to remove the stems & ribs from the leaves before using. Baby kale is definitely more tender and best used in salads, while regular kale tastes delicious lightly sauteed in olive oil, garlic, a pinch of red pepper flakes, and a dash of balsamic vinegar or in a hearty bean and sausage soup. Here's my version of a kale and cannellini bean soup with Kielbasa Sausage. Very flavorful and chock full of nutrients.

1 lb. Kielbasa (or any other sausage - Andouille or Linguica also work well), sliced
8 cloves garlic, minced
1 large onion, chopped
4 medium carrots, peeled and sliced
8 cups kale (leafy portion only - tear leaves off of stems & ribs)
1 tbsp. olive oil
4 15-oz cans of Cannellini beans (aka, white kidney beans), drained
2 32-oz. boxes of low sodium chicken broth
12 cups water
2 fresh bay leaves (ok to use dried)
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. black pepper
1" x 4" piece of parmesan rind (or just a slice of the cheese, if no rind)

1. Heat 1 tbsp. of olive oil in a large stock pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and garlic and saute for 2-3 minutes. Add the sausage and bay leaves and cook an additional 3-4 minutes until mixture is fragrant and onion is translucent. 

2. Add the kale and cook for several minutes until the leaves start to wilt. Stir in the chicken broth and 12 cups of water. Next, add the drained cannellini beans, parmesan wedge, dried thyme and black pepper. Stir to combine, bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium-low, cover and cook for 30 minutes. 

3. Add the sliced carrots, cover and continue cooking for an additional 30 minutes until carrots are tender. Taste and adjust for seasoning if needed. 

4. Serve hot with some crusty white or garlic bread on the side. Garnish with a bit of freshly grated parmesan and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on top, if desired.

Turkey Kielbasa has fewer calories than regular Polish sausage, but tastes just as good. One of these days, I'm going to mix things up a bit and add some small seasoned pork meatballs along with the sausage to make something akin to an Italian Wedding Soup. 

Sliced sausage, minced garlic, diced onion & fresh bay leaves. Having a Bay Laurel tree in the garden is a real plus - no need for store-bought, which tend to lose their flavor in no time.

About 8 cups of kale (2 bunches), with the leafy parts torn from the stems and ribs.

Saute the onion, garlic, sausage and bay leaves in 1 tbsp. olive oil.

Add the kale and cook for several minutes until wilted.

Add chicken stock and water.

Add the beans. I used canned because they are convenient and less time-consuming. If you want to use dried, by all means go for it - you just have to soak them overnight (a 1 lb. bag should do), then cook them for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until tender (I would probably add them to the sauteed onion, garlic, sausage, chicken broth and water, cook them until tender, then add the kale and carrots and cook an additional 30+ minutes). If you can't find cannellini beans, feel free to sub with any other white bean.

After 30 minutes, add the carrots and cook an additional 30 minutes or until the veggies are tender.

Garnish with some freshly grated parmesan and/or a drizzle of olive oil, if desired.


  1. I have masses of kale this year (all volunteers, bless 'em), so will definitely try this. Can I leave out the beans, though?

    1. Karin, by all means, leave out the beans if you want to. I recently came up with another version by cutting the amount of sausage in half, then adding little meatballs (8 oz. ground pork, 8 oz. ground beef, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 1 tsp. kosher salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper, 1 tsp. granulated garlic, 1/4 cup chopped parsley, 1 small onion, minced, 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs, 1 large egg), to the soup and a bunch of fresh spinach leaves at the end, making sure to cook the meatballs through over medium heat (should take about 8-10 minutes).