This is the soup I've made most often this winter. It's pretty basic, but I can guarantee that it's simple, satisfying, tastes even better after a stint in the fridge, and lends itself well to substitutions and improvisation. Cooking the pasta separately means it doesn't get all soggy – a nice way of keeping your leftovers from seeming like leftovers.
Makes about 8 servings
2 tsp olive oil
2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
1 yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp salt
2 stalks celery, chopped2 carrots, chopped
1 tsp Italian seasoning
1/2 tsp black pepper
2 bay leaves
28 oz can diced tomatoes
19 oz can white kidney beans
2 cups chicken broth or water
1 small bunch kale, ribs removed, chopped
Farfalle or ditali pasta (optional)
In Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat; add sausages. Cook, breaking up with spoon, until meat is browned outside and no longer pink inside. Remove sausage meat from pan and set aside.
Add onion and garlic to pan; sprinkle with salt. Cook, stirring and scraping up browned bits from bottom of pan, until onion begins to soften. Add celery and carrots; cook 3 minutes, until onion is translucent. Stir in Italian seasoning, pepper and bay leaves. Stir in tomatoes, beans and chicken broth; stir in sausage meat and Parmesan rind, if using. Bring to boil over high heat; stir in kale.
Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer, partially covered, until kale is tender – 30 to 45 minutes should do it. Remove bay leaves and Parmesan rind.
Meanwhile, just before serving, cook pasta according to package directions in boiling salted water. Drain well. Add pasta to each bowl, then top with soup.
It's great as-is, but I also like to serve this with Parmesan cheese on top, or – if I'm feeling really fancy – Parmesan crisps, made by topping thin slices of baguette with heaping spoonfuls of Parmesan and running them under the broiler. Yum!
Oh, and for dessert? Chocolate pudding.