A hearty Tuscan classic, Zuppa di Cavolo Nero, Cannellini e Salsicce is a robust soup that is nutrition-rich and absolutely bursting with flavour. Similar to an Italian minestrone, the ever popular rustic vegetable-and-bean soup, this version up is piqued with the addition of sweet Italian sausage, although chicken or turkey sausage would work just as well, or omit altogether for a heart-smart Vegetarian option. Like its cousin kale, Cavolo Nero is a member of the brassica family and comes into season during the autumn and winter months. Rich in nutrients, with high levels of iron and vitamins, it’s dark green leaves, sweet flavour and attractive crinkled appearance have made it a popular option for chefs looking for a more enticing alternative to better-known kale varieties, with a delicious taste all its own.
Browned sweet Italian sausage sautéed with garlic, diced onions, carrots and bay leaves
Vegetable stock, cannelloni beans, diced tomatoes and chopped cavolo nero are added to the pot, covered and simmered for 45 minutes
Turned down to low heat, the soup was left for another hour or so
before being labeled into bowls for dinner
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 lb Italian sweet sausage, casings removed
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, divided: 2 minced and 1 halved
2 bay leaves
1⁄2 tsp crushed dried fennel seeds
2 15 oz cans white cannellini or white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes with juice
2 bunches black Tuscan kale (cavolo nero), stems removed and roughly chopped
8 cups good quality vegetable or chicken stock
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
12 thick slices country-style bread, optional
Grated parmesan cheese, optional
In a large pot, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and brown, stirring occasionally to break into smaller pieces, about 10 minutes. Add the onion, carrots and bay leaves. Season generously with kosher salt and cook until the vegetables begin to soften, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes.
Add the minced garlic, fennel seeds, and half of the beans, mashing the remaining beans with a fork or wooden spoon and then add them to the pot, stirring to distribute within the soup, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the kale, and cook until it becomes slightly wilted. Then add the chicken stock, tomatoes and season with salt and pepper, and cover with a lid. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 45 minutes, however allowing it sit for another hour and then reheating gently makes it even better.
Meanwhile, toast the bread and rub it with the cut end of the halved garlic clove, then drizzle each slice with a little olive oil. Ladle the soup into warmed bowls and serve with toasted bread on the side, and a little grated parmesan cheese