white bean soup with crispy kale

I dreamed up this soup with picky eaters in mind and I know how picky eaters think because I was one. Well, am one. (Shh, don’t tell anyone. I’ve managed to keep it a secret so long.)


what you'll need

My first cookbook has no soup recipes because I didn’t consider myself a soup person, although this makes it sound like a failing of identity and it was really that I found soup depressingly monotonous: must every spoonful be exactly like the one before? A bowl felt a lifetime long. But my second cookbook (and my third, should I ever get to writing that thing, heh) has a big one because I finally figured out how to make soup that kept me interested: fixings. For me, when a soup is simple, it’s about the finishes. I love a salad bar of options and I love to be able to add more as I eat, so no two spoonfuls are exactly alike. This technique has come in handy with every variety of choosy eaters in my family — a husband who doesn’t like smooth soups, a son who can be convinced to eat most things if they have bacon, and a daughter who eats approximately nothing but is known to demolish bowls of kale chips and will steal the bacon off your plate without asking or expressing any level of remorse after. (She’s a cat. I gave birth to a cat.) (Although temporarily a spider.)

diced potatoescrisp the pancetta, if usingcook onion and garlic in drippingsadd potatoes and simmer until tenderblend until smoothadd cheese, to taste

This soup started as a lightened-up baked potato soup, swapping beans for some of the potatoes, but it’s way more interesting than that, if you ask me. It’s perfectly cozy solo, but when you set out a little sour cream, parmesan, pancetta, and crispy kale, it’s… fun? Yes, I just called soup fun. You can make it vegetarian by skipping the pancetta, vegan by skipping the parmesan and cream (I’d use a squeeze of lemon), but more important is that no matter how you make it, you can do so quickly. We’re not soaking beans, we’re not making stock, not here, not this time. This is a 40-minutes-top soup, and it’s absolutely perfect for right now.

meanwhile, crisp your kalecrispy kaleblended, fix as you wishsome fixings

Good Morning America: What? Yeah, no big deal at all! I was invited to kick off Ginger Zee’s cooking club, where she’s attempting to get her (really cute) kids and husband out of their pasta-obsessed rut. I came to her house to demonstrate this recipe and also another kid favorite, the Pizza Beans from Smitten Kitchen Every Day and the kids and husband ate it all. (I came home and was like “Step it up, fam.”) You can watch me do just this on the show tomorrow (Wednesday 10/30) morning at 8:45am ET, barring any major news that bumps the segment. [Update: Indeed, some news — the worsening fires in California — bumped the segment. I’ll give you a heads-up when there’s a new air date for it. And please, be safe out there.] When there’s a link to watch it online, I’ll add it here.

Are you following SK on Instagram? Every couple Fridays (ideally, every other, but sometimes life gets in the way) I’m doing Live Story demos of a recipe from the archives. Last week, apple cider caramels, the best Halloween candy that is not storebought peanut butter cups. A week from Friday (11/8)? Not sure what I’m cooking yet, but it will be something warm and cozy.

white bean soup with crispy kale

Previously

Six months ago: Braised Ginger Meatballs in Coconut Broth
One year ago: Sunken Black Forest Cake
Two years ago: Bakery-Style Butter Cookies
Three years ago: Broken Pasta with Pork Ragu
Four years ago: Baked Potatoes with Wild Mushroom Ragu and Twinkie Bundt
Five years ago: Homemade Harissa and Cauliflower Cheese
Six years ago: Potato and Broccolini Frittata
Seven years ago: Butternut Squash Salad with Farro and Pepitas and Roasted Pear and Chocolate Chunk Scones
Eight years ago: Pear, Cranberry, and Gingersnap Crumble
Nine years ago: Cauliflower and Parmesan Cake and Spiced Applesauce Cake
Ten years ago: Cauliflower with Almonds, Raisins and Capers and Silky, Decadent Old-School Chocolate Mousse
Eleven years ago: Meatballs and Spaghetti and Cranberry-Walnut Chicken Salad and Pink Lady Cake
Twelve years ago: Pumpkin Bread Pudding and Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup
Thirteen years ago: Pumpkin Muffins and Easiest Baked Macaroni-and-Cheese

White Bean Soup with Crispy Kale

To make this vegetarian, skip the pancetta and sauté the onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. To make this dairy-free, omit the cheese and sour cream.
  • 4 ounces diced pancetta
  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 1/2 pounds yukon gold potatoes, diced into 1/2-inch cubes (no need to peel)
  • 5 ounces curly kale leaves (from a salad-ready container)
  • 1 15-ounce can of cannellini or a smaller white bean, drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan
  • Sour cream, to serve
Heat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a large, heavy pot, heat 1 tablespoon oil and pancetta over medium heat; cook, stirring, until pancetta is crisp all over. Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels. Pour off all but two tablespoons fat from pan and leave the heat on. Add onion and garlic and cook until softened but not brown, about 5 minutes. Add broth, potatoes, 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, and many grinds of black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook, partially covered, until potatoes are tender (you can check by trying to smash one against the side of the pot with a spoon), about 15 minutes.

Meanwhile: Toss kale leaves with 1 tablespoon olive oil, rubbing it into the leaves. Spread them on your largest baking sheet, season with salt, and bake until the leaves are crisp, anywhere from 12 to 17 minutes. (It ranges due to whether there’s water clinging to them still and how much the pieces curl up.) You might want to move pieces around halfway to ensure they bake evenly. Set aside.

Once potatoes are tender, add beans and simmer for 3 minutes more. Blend soup until totally smooth. It will be thick. Taste and adjust seasonings if needed, adding more salt and pepper. Stir in half your cheese until melted and combined.

To serve, ladle into bowls. Dollop with sour cream, some kale chips torn into smaller chunks, pancetta, and remaining cheese if needed to please the masses.

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