Beans & greens–soup!

close-up of rapini or broccoli raab


This is one of my favorite recipes for the seasons when cool weather crops are easy to find.  It’s modified from “Marcella Cucina” (Bibliography)–it’s four servings as a main course, but it freezes well, and reheats well.  For best results, I recommend cooking your own dried beans, but canned will always work as well.  If you can’t find borlotti or cranberry beans, pinto beans would be a good substitute. If you can’t find the rapini (broccoli raab, or broccoletti) you can use broccoli–but the taste won’t be the same.  Rather than broccoli, I’d opt for other winter greens such as mustard greens or kale.

Cranberry Bean and Cime de Rapa Soup


  • 1-1/2 cups dried, soaked, cooked borlotti (cranberry) beans
  • 1-1/2 pounds greens, stemmed if large
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/4 pound pancetta, chopped fine (about 1 cup).



  • Soak beans overnight in brine.
  • Drain and bring to a boil in a fresh change of water.
  • Reduce the heat and cook at a very low boil until for about 30 minutes
  • Add 1-1/2 teaspoons salt and continue to cook until tender.
  • Let them steep in the cooking liquid until ready to use.


  • Wash the greens in several changes of water and stem the leaves if they are large.
  • In a covered saucepan, with 2 cups water,  bring to a boil over high heat.
  • Add salt to taste and cook until tender.
  • Drain the greens.
  • When cool enough to handle, chop coarsely.

The soup

  • Put olive oil and pancetta (or bacon) in saucepan and cook, stirring frequently, until browned.
  • Add the garlic and sauté until the garlic just begins to color.
  • Add the chopped greens and cook for about 5 minutes, turning frequently to coat with oil and mix with the bacon.  Be sure to scrape the fond (all the good brown stuff) from the bottom of the pan.  If needed, add 1/4 cup water to help with this.
  • Drain the beans (do not discard the cooking liquid).
  • Purée half the beans and enough cooking liquid to make a medium dense consistency.
  • Add to the remaining beans and the greens and cook for about 10 to 15 minutes to blend flavors.
  • Taste and correct seasoning, and serve.

The original recipe suggests that this not be refrigerated since a night in the refrigerator will give the vegetable a “grassy, metallic” taste.  I don’t think that is an issue–you’ll only be able to tell if you try it yourself.  I would package some in zipper-lock freezer bags (single-serving amounts) and put it directly into the freezer.

Chicken sausage

Chicken Italian sausage

I’ve made this substituting sausage cut in pieces for the pancetta or bacon to make it a heartier soup.  Italian sausage (hot or mild according to taste) works well, but I’ve use other sausages from the store-made ones at Harris Teeter, such as lamb. There are a number of chicken sausages available if you’d like to avoid beef or pork.  Even without adding meat it’s still a hearty warming light supper.

A son goût!

Cool-weather one-dish meals

links of hot Italian sausage

hot Italian sausage

Come cool (or cold weather) I’m ready  for hearty, warming food (healthy and simple is fine too).  One of my favorites because it  will reheat well if there are leftovers, it’s easily modified if there are second runs,  there’s nothing fixed about the quantity, and there are SO many variations with seasonal ingredients is a recipe from Jacques Pepin’s The Short-cut Cook for a stew of sausage, greens and beans.  It can be made from ingredients found in your supermarket (Harris Teeter, in my case).

This serves six, but it’s easily halved and it’s freezer-friendly for later use.  I’m reproducing and adapting the basic recipe here for you:

loose mustard greens (Harris Teeter Fresh Market)

mustard greens

Sausage Stew with Mustard Greens and Beans (p. 178)


  • 1-1/4 pounds of hot Italian sausage
  • 2 onions (about 8 ounces total) peeled and quartered.
  • 2 cans (1 pound each) red kidney beans
  • 1 small jalapeño pepper, minced (optional)
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 package (10 ounces) frozen chopped mustard greens


  • Divide the sausage meat and form into balls with your hands (dampened).
  • In  a heavy pot, over medium-to-low heat, cook the meatballs for about so minutes covered, turning about every 5 minutes, until they begin to brown.
  • Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes.
  • Add the beans (with their liquid), the jalapeño pepper, the cumin.
  • Bring to a boil and cook gently for about 10 minutes.
  • add the mustard greens, allowing them to thaw in the hot liquid for a few minutes and then break them up.
  • Cover and cook for about 10 minutes longer (or for a total of 50 minutes)
dried beans

dried beans

Now, how many variations are there on this basic recipe?  Well, go look at the canned beans or the dried beans…there are so many possibilities.  Even though this recipe calls for the liquid from the canned beans, I really don’t like the taste so I drain and rinse the beans and substitute an equal amount of water or chicken stock instead…but do whatever works for you.  If you’ve cooked your own dried beans, then by all means use the liquid from the beans.

produce displace of winter greens

winter greens

Now go check out the frozen greens in the supermarket–or the fresh ones in the produce department. (I don’t like spinach in this since it’s so tender that  it cooks to slime–but kale, collards, mustard, even cabbage will work–any of the “tough” greens that need longer cooking).

You want more variations?  Okay go to the meat department and check out the varieties of sausage that are available–polish sausages, bratwurst, and if you’re lucky, you’ll find store-made fresh sausages: bangers, lamb sausages, chicken sausages, bratwurst, et cetera.  So there are lots of variations with some minor changes in seasoning.  I know that If I ask, I can find out what seasoning is in the sausages, and adjust the seasoning of my one-dish meal accordingly.  When you want to make a single-serving, you can buy just one or two sausages.

sausages in display case in meat department of Harris Teeter


If you like this sort of thing, here a link to The Kitchn where you’ll find a great sounding recipe for beans and greens with a slightly different touch.  These are such versatile ingredients–and just add a bit of rice or pasta and you’ve got a whole meal, with or without the meat.