Tuscan-inspired kale and white bean soup is a great recipe to warm up with on chilly days. The mouth-watering combination of unsmoked bacon, porcini mushrooms, and hearty beans makes this a filling lunch or light dinner.
Do you know what happens when you clean out your pantry in the spring? You find a lot of interesting ingredients that need to get used up.
Ingredients like home-canned kale, dried mushrooms (why do I have dry mushrooms?), and home-canned white beans.
And when that happens, the obvious thing to make is soup. Especially when it’s -8C outside (that’s 18F for my American friends) and you don’t want to go outside at all.
The final thing that helped me decide what to make was when I realized I still had a bit of cured-but-not-smoked sliced pork belly sitting in the back of the upstairs freezer. This is the start to a delicious Tuscan-inspired soup.
We’ll call it “Tuscan inspired” because I tend to play fast and loose with recipes, especially old peasant recipes. Country people throughout history have varied their recipes according to what they had available, and so do I.
I’m still not sure where this little package of dried mushrooms came from. The label says they’re ‘porcini’.
So let’s look at what we have … a jar of kale, a handful of dried mystery mushrooms, a jar of white beans, and some cured pork belly. And a piece of Parmesan in the freezer. EJ says “Use that for something or I’m eating it.”
For the record, if you’re ever considering a recipe and it calls for something called ‘pancetta‘, don’t worry. It just means cured, unsmoked pork belly … or in other words, unsmoked bacon. You can make it at home in a few days if you have access to pork belly.
The first thing to do before making this white bean soup is to soak the dried porcini mushrooms in warm water for about an hour until they plump up. Strain them through a bit of cheesecloth or a coffee filter. The mushroom bits can be chopped up and used in your soup, and the liquid is added to the soup broth.
What if you don’t have porcini mushrooms?
This is where the fun of cooking comes in. Make recipes your own. If you don’t have these mushrooms, don’t add them. Use a bit of beef broth instead of the mushroom liquid, if you have that. Or just use all chicken broth. Play around with it. Have fun. It’ll taste good no matter what broth you use.
Think about it for a moment – hardy greens, white beans, mushrooms, broth, cured meat … this is peasant cooking, and you just know substitutes were made when necessary.
Heat up a frying pan with a bit of oil and saute the diced bacon and mushrooms until the bacon is nicely cooked. Add 1/2 cup dry white wine OR chicken broth to the pan and scrape up any brown bits. Add the rest of the chicken broth, along with the mushroom liquid.
So now you have a big pot of fragrant broth with a bit of bacon and mushroom floating in it.
Strain the liquid from the white beans and the canned kale. Chop the kale. EJ keeps telling the children I’m adding spinach to the soup and they’ll be strong like Popeye. Honestly, I like kale so much better, but you can use spinach if you have it.
Is there enough cheese on your Parmesan to grate some off? If you can, grate off at least 1/2 cup Parmesan and set it aside. The reason we use Parmesan rind in soup is because you’re not really going to want to chew on the rind but it still has tons of flavour. And good Parmesan is so expensive that you’ll want to get every possible bit of flavour extracted from it.
Into the pot goes … 2 cups white beans, that piece of Parmesan rind, 2 bay leaves, a bit of rosemary, and some salt and pepper.
Let it simmer and put 1 cup white beans in the blender with a little water and puree them. Scrape this into the soup pot to thicken it a little. (How’s that for a nice, healthy gluten-free way to thicken your soup?)
Now add the chopped cooked kale or spinach and the cheese that you grated earlier.
When it’s all hot and smelling wonderful, scoop out the Parmesan rind and the bay leaves. Enjoy!
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Now go make some White Bean Soup with Kale and Mushrooms!
- 2 Tablespoons oil
- 6 ounces cured unsmoked bacon
- 1/2 ounce dried porcini mushrooms, reconstituted and chopped
- 1/2 cup dry white wine or chicken broth
- 6 c. chicken broth
- 2” Parmesan cheese rind
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 1/2 Tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves or 1 teaspoon dried rosemary
- 3 cups cooked cannellini beans or other white beans
- Salt and pepper
- 1 quart kale or spinach, well drained and chopped
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
- Heat up a frying pan with the oil and saute the diced bacon and mushrooms until the bacon is nicely cooked.
- Add 1/2 cup dry white wine OR chicken broth to the pan and scrape up any brown bits.
- Add the rest of the chicken broth, along with the mushroom liquid.
- Strain the liquid from the white beans and the canned kale.
- Chop the kale.
- Grate at least 1/2 cup cheese from the Parmesan rind.
- Into the pot goes 2 cups white beans, Parmesan rind, bay leaves, rosemary, and salt and pepper.
- Let it simmer and put 1 cup white beans in the blender with a little water and puree them. Scrape this into the soup pot to thicken it a little.
- Now add the chopped cooked kale or spinach and the grated cheese.
- When it’s all hot and smelling wonderful, scoop out the Parmesan rind and the bay leaves.