Kale, White Bean, and Sausage Soup

I can’t believe I’m about to write a post on sausage. Oh, it’s happening. And just for kicks I’m going to attempt to do it while keeping a straight face. So here it goes.

I hated sausage for the majority of my life. I think it stems from tasting it at my grandparents’ house in Maryland when I was a kid. It was the breakfast kind that came in links and was stored in the freezer. No, not that freezer—the second freezer. The one in the laundry room. Well, I thought sausage was gross (I’m guessing it was the fennel) so I stuck with bacon.

As the years went by and I became interested in health, I further avoided sausage. I learned about the sodium and nitrates that go into curing sausage, and let’s not talk about what’s in the casing. I decided I’d never touch the stuff.

But then I became interested in cooking. And food. And I noticed menu items like orecchiette with broccoli rabe, sausage, and sun-dried tomatoes. Don’t the words sound so delicious you could just eat them? Sausage wasn’t only being paired with scrambled eggs and buttermilk pancakes anymore.

I can’t remember the exact moment I decided to give sausage a second chance. I think it may have something to do with one of my favorite soup recipes, Italian Wedding Soup. My sister made it for the first time several years ago and I fell in love with the tiny chicken sausage meatballs. No longer did fennel turn me off—it was a deep and complex flavor with just the right amount of bite. I loved that sausage was no longer limited only to pork—this was chicken! And where was the casing? Raw, this stuff looked like ground meat with seasonings.

Last winter I made Italian Wedding Soup on my own several times and fell more in love with sausage’s bold flavors. Sometimes, I’d even order items at restaurants that contained it. But I’d never cooked anything else with sausage…until Monday. A while ago, I saw a recipe for kale and white bean soup. The moment I saw the word kale I was pretty much sold. I then saw a recipe for sausage and white bean soup. These recipes had to meet. And I was just the girl to set them up.

It was only a matter of time before kale, white bean, and sausage soup came to be. Of course, this wasn’t going to happen without interrogating the Whole Foods meat counter guy first. Yes, I’ve been known to do this weekly from time to time. I had to know what was in his sausage. (I’m still keeping a straight face here.) Is the chicken sausage white meat or dark? It’s dark. I could live with that. Is it organic? Yes. Has it been cured? No. So no nitrates? No nitrates. It’s simply ground meat with seasonings already mixed in and has never been in a casing before? Yes. No casing. I’ll take a pound, please. This soup was as good as done. I picked up some onion, carrots, celery, and two giant bunches of lacitano kale (after last week’s success I figured I’d give this variety another shot—and there wasn’t even any braising involved!)

Now I’m just going to come out and say it. This is the best soup I’ve ever made. Ever. In history. Hands down. No competition. There are a million different flavors going on here, but it’s like they were meant to be together. (Maybe I’m destined to be a food matchmaker?) The beans, kale and carrots provide a perfect backdrop for the slightly spicy sausage and sweet fire-roasted tomatoes to pop on your palate. Even the textures are ideal. I’m not going to lie: I had two heaping bowls last night and am happy to say there’s still plenty left to feed me through Thursday (at least). This is a recipe I’ll be making again and again. After all, I have a lot of sausage eating to make up for.

Kale, White Bean, and Sausage Soup

Ingredients
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 pound spicy chicken sausage (out of the casing, if possible)
3 large carrots (or 4 smaller ones), chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
1 28 oz can fire-roasted diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
15 oz can great northern beans, drained and rinsed, pour half into a bowl and mash with the back of a fork
2 bunches lacitano kale, stems removed and cut into bite-sized pieces

Preparation
In a soup pot, heat olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and cook until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add the sausage, break up the meat and cook until starting to brown. Add the carrots and celery and cook about 5 to 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook 20 to 30 minutes. Add the beans and kale and cover again, cooking until the kale wilts, about 5 to 7 more minutes.

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