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Tuscan Bean Soup with Kale and Spelt


Earl Kendall

After all the cookies, chocolates, and other rich holiday fare, a healthy dose of homemade soup can be a welcome change of pace—and a great warmer on “blustery” days…if sub-zero temps can be called “blustery”!

This recipe by cookbook author Joanna Pruess, which appeared in Real Food, not only includes healthy beans but also kale, which studies have shown is rich in antioxidant, anti-inflammatory, and anti-cancer nutrients.

Hearty Tuscan bean soup is a much-loved cold-weather staple that has nurtured generations, and every nonna has a personal recipe. For this version, cranberry beans are combined with the kale and farro, an ancient wheat-like grain believed to have nourished early Roman troops. The nutty-tasting, pale brown grain, also known as spelt, is similar to hard wheat. (Note that this recipe calls for dried beans, so plan ahead as they need to soak in water overnight.)

A pot of simmering soup is sure to warm the house and spirit on a cold winter weekend. If you happen to top off your meal with some of those leftover cookies, the healthy beans, veggies, and kale in this recipe can help balance out a few holiday cookies, right?

Tuscan Bean Soup with Kale and Spelt

Serves 4 to 6 generously

3 c. dried borlotti, cranberry, or pinto beans
1 c. farro (spelt) or wheatberries
4 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, plus more to drizzle before serving
½ lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
4 c. kale leaves, coarse stems removed and cut into thick ribbons
1 medium-large onion, peeled and diced
1 large carrot, peeled and diced
1 large rib celery, trimmed and diced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
5 c. chicken stock
1 c. peeled, seeded, and diced tomatoes (or drained diced canned tomatoes)
1 sprig rosemary
1 sprig sage
salt and pepper to taste
½ c. grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

In separate bowls, cover beans and farro with cold water and soak overnight. Drain and carefully pick through them to remove any pebbles or foreign matter. Set aside.

In a large heavy pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add sausage and cook until it begins to separate and brown, 3 to 5 minutes, stirring often. Stir in kale, onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.

Add beans, farro, chicken stock, and tomatoes, and bring liquid to a boil. Stir in rosemary and sage, lower heat to a simmer, and cook partially covered for 60 to 70 minutes, or until beans are tender. If soup is too thick, stir in additional chicken stock, as needed. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Ladle the soup into large bowls, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, sprinkle with Parmigiano cheese, and serve.

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