This is the soup I make every week. When I say every week there is no exaggerating because I really do mean at least once every seven days. This meal has many merits, not the least of which is the fact that it’s the one dinner no one ever complains about. It also makes enough to feed my family twice, which, as you can imagine, is a definite added bonus. The ratio of vegetables to meat is heavily in favour of the ground-grown goods, leaving me feeling virtuous for feeding it to my family as often as I do.
As a recipe developer I spend a lot of time coming up with and cooking new creations, but there are many, many days when I prefer to turn to the dishes I know by heart. When this happens, I have a set of go-to meals that I make repeatedly, and I like to think of them as our house specials.
You’re familiar with the term, I’m sure. In the food industry, it’s typically a dish that is the specialty of a particular chef or restaurant. It could be a salad, a drink, or even a main course. I have my own specialties, and this soup, loaded with spicy sausage, creamy beans, root vegetables and leafy greens, happens to be one of them.
I have come to believe that anyone who walks into a kitchen should know how to make soup. Very few people are immune to the seductive powers of this classic comfort food, and there is no end to the things you can put into pot of soup. Meat is nice, and so are vegetables, beans, and noodles. A garnish of grated cheese, or even better, toasted bread, can elevate the dish to something special, and the ingredients you choose allow the dish to be tailored to suit almost any season.
Just as every cook needs to know how to make soup, every home needs a few “house specials.” These are the dishes that get you through the days when you need to make the meals that you’re most familiar with. I’m sure you have a few of your own. I like to keep my pantry and freezer well stocked with the ingredients I need to make this particular meal, as they are essential to my kitchen, just as the recipe is, and I take no shame is defaulting to this dish as often as I do.
I load this one with kale because it’s one of the few vegetables that my boys easily agree on, and lest you think I’m so very lucky to have kids that readily gobble up their greens – and I agree, it is awesome – I couldn’t get either of my boys to eat a strawberry if it was last thing I had in the fridge, and presenting mushrooms or asparagus on the plate holds about as much appeal as a night with nothing to do but homework. In essence, we all have our issues, but greens are not one of mine. I use spinach, kale and Swiss chard interchangeably, and find that removing the thick inner stalks, and cutting the leaves into thin ribbons, makes for easy eating. Please know though, it’s really the sausage that lures them to the table; I just add a bunch of good-for-you-ingredients to the mix so the kids are eating what they like as well as what I happen to like for them.
If you know of anyone that hasn’t curated their own collection of house specials, I encourage you to introduce them to this recipe to get them started. The ease with which the dish comes together will easily entice them to make it more than once, and the groans and moans of happiness from those who have the chance to taste it will clearly express the importance of adding this dish to their recipe rotation.
They can tweak it to make the recipe their own, of course. I’ve been known to use turkey sausage in place of pork when I’m looking for something a little leaner, and gnocchi in lieu of beans (add them closer to the end of the cooking time instead of at the beginning) when comfort food is craved. The dish also does well with a smidge of cream added at the end, making the meal reminiscent of the classic zuppa Toscana. The bottom line here is that recipes should be shared, and I’m hoping this one becomes a part of your repertoire, and possibly one of your own home's specialties.
Sausage, Bean and Vegetable Soup
It could be argued that this soup more resembles a stew thanks to the plentiful portions of veggies. Regardless, we refer to it as soup and like to eat it topped with grated Parmesan cheese and a side of crusty bread. I buy my sausages in bulk quantities and package them up in bundles of four, which I store in the freezer until needed.
- 1 Tbsp. olive oil
- 1 Tbsp. butter
- 1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
- 1 small onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 4 (about 450g) sausages, casings removed
- 1 large head kale, inner stalks removed and cut into thin ribbons
- 2 large carrots, peeled and cut into large dice
- 2 large russet potatoes, cut into large dice
- 2 cans navy beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ tsp. fresh ground nutmeg
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2-3 cups water
- Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
Place the oil and butter in a large Dutch oven or stockpot set over medium heat. When the butter has melted add the red pepper flakes, stirring them around. Add the onion and cook, stirring often, until translucent and soft, 7-10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more.
Place the sausage in the pot, breaking it up into smaller pieces with the back of the wooden spoon. Cook until the meat is no longer pink and the pieces begins to brown. Add the kale and stir, cooking until wilted.
Dump the carrots, potatoes, and beans into the pot, and season with the nutmeg. Pour the chicken stock and water over top (use the amount required to cover the vegetables by at least one inch). Bring the soup to a boil, partially cover, and reduce the heat to low. Simmer for 40-45 minutes or until the potatoes and carrots are fork tender. Taste and season to perfection with salt and pepper; serve warm.