This is a favorite in our house, especially in the colder months when the cabbages and kale are at their peak at the farmers market. Use any white or brown bean here—even flageolets would be delicious—but avoid black beans as they’ll turn the soup muddy. You can also make the soup without bacon; just use a bit more oil when you sauté the vegetables at the beginning.
6 ounces slab bacon, diced
extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, orange or yellow, diced 1 onion, diced
1 leek, white part and about 1 inch of the greens, rinsed and diced
1 bulb fresh fennel, cored and diced, including green stalks and fronds
2 celery stalks, diced
2 fat cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon fresh thyme, leaves only
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
½ head green cabbage, cored and sliced (Savoy cabbage is particularly nice)
½ bunch black Tuscan kale, ribs removed, leaves sliced
½ cup fresh Italian parsley, chopped
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 small chunk Parmigiano Reggiano rind (optional)
¼ cup finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano
2 cups cooked beans and some of their cooking broth
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
Heat a large Dutch oven or enameled cast iron soup pot over medium heat and add the bacon and 1 tablespoon olive oil. Sauté until crisp, 3-4 minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Set aside. If your bacon wasn’t very fatty, add 2 more tablespoons olive oil to the pan (if it was, just cook in the bacon fat!) and add the carrot, onion, leek, fennel, celery, and minced garlic. Season well with salt and pepper, and add the thyme leaves. Your pot will be fairly full—have patience and stir: the salt and heat will break down the vegetables.
When the volume of vegetables has reduced by half, add the cabbage, kale, and half the parsley. Season again with a pinch or two of salt and pepper, toss to combine, then add the stock and the Parmigiano rind (if using). Bring to a simmer and add the beans and the vinegar; if you need more liquid, add some of the bean cooking broth. Simmer about 15 minutes to allow the flavors to blend.
Serve the soup right away with the reserved bacon, the remaining parsley, and some grated Parmigiano sprinkled on top, or you can cool it to reheat another day. For a creamier texture, blend two cups of the soup to a fine puree and stir it back into the pot before garnishing.
Sarah Blackburn is a home cook, recipe developer, vegetable gardener and managing editor of Edible Boston. She can be reached at email@example.com