I was inspired to make this soup after seeing something on Instagram. I dreamt about it, waiting for late fall when the Tuscan kale is in season. Also called Cavolo Nero, this intensely dark green, almost black, leafy kale has a mild, smooth flavour with softer leaves. It is as pretty and it is tasty. You can try it with regular kale, but honestly, try to find this Italian version.
The traditional bean to accompany Tuscan kale would be chickpea, but we want to highlight Ontario bean varieties, so I chose Cranberry beans. They are creamy and hearty with a lovely, nutty flavour and can stand up to the kale. If you leave out the cheese and use vegetable broth, it also makes a fantastic vegan main dish. This recipe is somewhere between a thick soup and a soup stew so feel free to add more broth if you want it thinner.
- 1 bunch black Tuscan kale
- 4 cloves of garlic -either confit or roasted
- 1 tsp kosher salt
- 2 –3 Tbsp olive oil for kale puree
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 small leek, sliced thinly
- 1 carrot, finely diced
- 1 stalk celery, finely diced
- 2 cans of cranberry beans (also known as Borlottit or Romano)
- 2 Tbsp olive oil for the leeks
- 3–4 cups chicken broth
- 1 generous cup of small pasta of your choice
- 1 lemon, zested
- 2–3 Calabrian red chilis or 1 tsp red pepper flakesFreshly grated parmesan
Wash the kale. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil – use just enough water to cover the kale. Blanch the kale for 2 minutes and remove it to a water bath, OR run it immediately under the coldest tap water in a colander. Squeeze out as much of the liquid as you can and then roughly chop. Put the kale in a blender – I like to do two batches in my Ninja Bullet. Add 2 to 3 tbsp of olive oil (if you use confit garlic, you can use that oil) and start with about 1/2 cup of the kale blanching liquid. Puree into a thick paste and set aside.
Heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a deep skillet and sauté the leeks until soft. Add in the carrot and celery and continue to cook until they start to take on some colour. Open the cans of beans and dump the whole thing in, liquid and all. Now stir in the Kale puree, bring to a light simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add 3 to 4 cups of chicken broth and the small pasta. Cook until the pasta is cooked.
While the soup is simmering, zest the lemon, cut in half, juice it and add it to the soup. Slice the hot Calabrian chilis if you are using it. You can also use hot Thai chili or dried chili flakes.
Stir in the lemon juice, check and adjust for salt and ladle the soup into shallow bowls. Top the soup with lemon zest and chilis and finish with a good handful of grated parmesan.