Tuscan kale is a beautiful specimen of the kale family. The leaves are long and dainty looking, and look really pretty in a garden. But like standard kale, the leaves are hearty and the stems tough. Thick stems should be cut off and the leaves need to cook for a substantial amount of time (versus greens such s spinach or chard, which cook down in a few minutes).
The ingredient in this soup that you may not be familiar with is fregola. Fregola (also spelled fregula) is a type of pasta that looks like Israeli couscous. It’s made by rolling semolina dough into small balls and toasting them. It’s a specialty of Sardegna (Sardinia), an island off the coast of mainland Italy, and can be used in many different ways, from soups and stews to pilafs and with sauces like regular pasta.
Tuscan bean soup is a classic Italian dish, made more special by the Tuscan kale and the fregola. You can find Tuscan kale at farmers’ markets, as well as produce stores. Fregola can be found where Italian products are sold, specialty stores, and well-stocked supermarkets.
Tuscan Kale-Bean Soup with Fregola
Makes 6 to 8 servings.
1 bunch Tuscan kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ cup diced carrot
1 teaspoon dry basil
1 teaspoon paprika
8 cups vegetable broth
1 cup fregola
2 teaspoons kosher salt
Freshly grated black pepper to taste
1 (15-oz) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano (optional)
Grated Parmesan (optional)
Cut the thick stems off the kale and place the leaves in a large bowl. Fill the bowl with water and let it sit for 10 minutes. Swish the leaves around a few times. Lift them out of the water and coarsely chop them.Heat the oil in a large pot. Add the onion and sauté until soft and translucent.
Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, another 2 or 3 minutes. Add the carrot and sauté about 5 minutes, or until softened. Stir in the basil and paprika.Add the kale, then pour in the broth. Cook 10 minutes. Then add the fregola, salt, and pepper, and stir. Bring to a boil; lower the heat, partially cover the pot, and simmer until fregola is al dente, about 10 minutes.Stir occasionally. Add the beans and cook another 5 minutes. Stir in the fresh oregano. Taste for seasoning and adjust as desired.Ladles soup into serving bowls and sprinkle with parmesan. Serve hot.