Italian Soup with White Beans and Greens

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Italian Soup with Beans and Greens 3

I have a wonderful soup recipe that I want to share with you this week, but the name gave me some trouble. I’ve always just called this “greens soup” or perhaps “that soup with the greens”, but neither of those headings was likely to lure you to this page. I also didn’t want to use the name of the original recipe since my version often leaves out the main ingredient for which it’s named: Cavolo Nero Soup, or black cabbage soup. So I pulled out the other ingredients for a nice descriptive title that is perfect for the season: Italian Soup with Beans and Greens.

With that name, you’d expect a nice warm bowl of soup that is both tasty and healthy, which this is! Plus, you resolved to eat more veggies, right? True to its name, there are plenty in this soup! It’s even vegan if you use vegetable stock.

I’ve learned that aside from being called black cabbage, the cavolo nero that the original soup was named for can also be called Tuscan kale, or lacinato kale. Kale is very trendy at the moment, but was not very popular eight years ago when I first encountered a large pile of leafy greens in one of my first community sponsored agriculture (CSA) boxes. One of the things I love about being part of a CSA is that you never know what you’re going to get. For many this can be the downside, but I love the challenge. Greens

So, picture this. It’s eight years ago and I’ve never really eaten greens that I have enjoyed. (The southern way is to boil forever with a hunk of pork, which isn’t really my style.) I had also never cooked them and I had a huge pile of collard greens, mustard greens, and kale. Nowadays you can hardly turn around without encountering a kale salad, chip, or smoothie recipe, but eight years ago, I was a bit lost. Then as I was leafing through one of my beloved Italian cookbooks, I came across this recipe for Cavolo Nero Soup. I didn’t know what black cabbage was, but the recipe seemed adaptable for the greens I had on hand. It worked! And a healthy new favorite was born.

Over the years, I’ve made this with a large variety of greens. The bowl pictured here was made with some lovely collard greens, but mustard greens or any of the varieties of kale will work as well. I’ve tinkered with the recipe over the years and it’s quite a bit different from the original recipe, but it’s still delicious and has converted many folks who didn’t think they liked greens either.

Sometimes your favorite recipes are the ones that are forged out of necessity. And sometimes recipe names come about the same way. If necessity is the mother of invention, Italian Soup with White Beans and Greens was a pretty great invention!

*Pictures taken using the new portable light box Tim got me for Christmas. Love it!

Italian Soup with White Beans and Greens

Italian Soup with White Beans and Greens

Inspired by the Cavolo Nero Soup in Italian Easy, Recipes from the London River Cafe 

1 lb Greens (Kale, Collard, Mustard greens, or a mix)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 carrots, chopped
3 pieces of celery, chopped
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 tsp fennel seeds
14 oz can of white beans (I’ve used both cannellini and great northern in this recipe)
28 oz can whole tomatoes
3 cups broth or stock (I used vegi stock, but chicken broth would also work)
2 Tb olive oil
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Heat the olive oil in a dutch oven or other large soup pot over medium high heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and saute until soft, about 7 minutes. Add the fennel, crushed red pepper, and garlic and saute for another minute. Then add the entire can of tomatoes, chopping them in the pot as they cook. Simmer for 15 minutes.
  2. While this simmers, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and prep your greens. Cut out any thick stems and roughly chop or tear into pieces. Remember that the greens will shrink when cooked so leave them a bit larger than bite size, about 2 inches squared. Boil the greens in the water for 5 minutes, then drain and set aside.
  3. Add the beans and the broth to the tomato vegetable mixture and simmer for 15 more minutes. Season the broth to taste with salt and pepper. Add the greens and stir to combine.
  4. Serve hot, preferably with crusty bread to help soak up the broth.