This hearty and colorful soup, inspired by a recipe from Epicurious that originally appeared in Gourmet, makes a terrific cozy main dish for a chilly evening. Though this one has roots in Italy, the beans-and-winter greens combo is reminiscent of Southern fare, with Parmigiano-Reggiano rind standing in for ham hock as the principle flavoring. Often the rind is sold in containers in the imported cheese section of supermarkets, but if not, ask the deli counter operator or cheesemonger to cut a piece for you. It adds a wonderful depth of flavor—so much so, you could skip the sausage and substitute vegetable stock for the chicken broth to make it vegetarian. Served with corn bread or a crusty baguette, it’s a complete meal. Leftovers freeze great.
1 pound dried white beans (Great Northern, cannelloni, navy, etc.)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large yellow onions, coarsely chopped
2 to 3 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
2 quarts homemade or low-sodium chicken broth
1 (3-by-2-inch) piece Parmigiano-Reggiano rind
2 Turkish bay leaves
1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
1 pound kielbasa or other smoked sausage, sliced into 1/2-inch- thick rounds
6–8 carrots, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch-thick rounds
1 pound kale, stems and center ribs discarded and leaves coarsely chopped
5–6 cups water
Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
1. Place beans in a large bowl; cover with 2 inches of cold water and let soak overnight. Drain in a colander and rinse. (Or to quick-soak, place beans in a pot; cover with 2 inches of water, bring to a boil, remove from heat, and let stand uncovered, 1 hour. Drain and rinse.)
2. Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over medium-low heat; add onions and sauté, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add garlic; cook and stir another minute. Add beans, broth, cheese rind, bay leaves, rosemary, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer, uncovered, until beans are just tender, 45 minutes to an hour.
3. Meanwhile, sauté the sausage in a large skillet over medium heat, until lightly browned on both sides. Let drain on paper towels.
4. Add carrots to soup and simmer 5 minutes. Add kale, sausage, and 4 cups water. Simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, until kale is tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Taste and adjust seasonings. Cool completely; cover and refrigerate a day or two to allow flavors to develop.
5. Reheat the soup; thin with additional water if necessary. Remove bay leaves and cheese rind. Ladle into bowls; serve with grated cheese, if desired.
Makes 8 servings.