While recovering from surgery in February, our friends and neighbors made wonderful meals for us, which is a very good thing because I wasn’t going anywhere far from the chair during that first week. My neighbor Dee Dee brought over a pot of sausage and lentil soup that my guys flipped over—yes, the boys went back for seconds—and we managed to save enough for another meal, but it was all gone after that. Michael asked me to make it sometime, and I promised I would once I was back on my feet.
Ten days after surgery I was in the kitchen, thinking about that soup and looking through the pantry and freezer to see what we had. The cannellini beans called and I just started playing with ingredients. We had received two Edible Arrangements fruit bouquets that week, which have lots of beautiful kale, and all of that kale went into the pot, too.
Michael crumbled the sausage and did the taste testing, which was a big help since my appetite had not returned yet. But I was still proud of myself for getting back on my feet and making a meal. Michael’s parents arrived that afternoon with a car full of groceries and hands ready to help, and later we sat down to share this soup and enjoy dinner together, an affirmation of the love in our family.
When I make soup, I make enough for leftovers, so this is a big batch. The soup can be frozen in quart containers for up to three months. I use pork sausage from Logan’s Sausage, a local family-owned company, but you can use turkey or chicken sausage if you prefer. Fat content in sausage can vary, so if your sausage is lean and doesn’t leave enough fat in the pot, add a little olive oil for sautéing the onions. Make sure you soak the beans before cooking following directions in Dry Beans and Legumes Cooking Chart.
ITALIAN SAUSAGE, KALE, AND CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP
10-quart stock pot with lid
1 pound dry cannellini beans, soaked and drained
1 pound hot Italian sausage
1 pound mild Italian sausage
1 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 (28-ounce/794 g) can diced tomatoes
1-inch piece Parmesan or Grana Padano cheese rind
2 bay leaves
2 quarts homemade chicken broth or low-sodium chicken broth
1 pound kale, stems trimmed, chopped
kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 pound ditalini pasta, cooked and drained
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1. Remove the skin from the sausage and crumble. Brown the sausage in the pot, and transfer to a paper towel to drain, reserving 2 tablespoons of the rendered fat in the pot. Sauté the onions until they turn golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté for another minute, then return the sausage to the pot.
2. Add the drained beans, diced tomatoes, cheese rind, bay leaves, and the chicken broth. Cover and bring to a boil, then simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour. Add the kale and simmer until it is tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the cooked pasta and parsley, and simmer for 1 more minute, then serve.