Sausage, kale, and cannellini beans come together to make a flavorful, hearty soup. Credit: Courtesy of Sandy Oliver

Since the start of the pandemic, we’ve all seen sporadic shortages of foodstuff in our local grocery stores. Periodically, the canned beans section looks sparse.

Because at this house, we enjoy a hearty winter soup of sausage, cannellini beans and kale, I was particularly glad that I had home-gown, dried cannellini beans on hand. The last of my supply went into this week’s lunch soup.

I work at home, so it is no big deal for me to soak a couple of cups of dried beans overnight for adding to a soup next day, or boiling them up until the skins peel to make baked beans, or to add to a pot of chili. If I had to work around a busy family schedule of work, school, sports and community meetings, I’d be very happy to have ready-to-use beans to dump out of a can.

If ready cooked beans are what you need, give yourself a helping hand by picking up a package of dried beans at the store the next time you go, your favorites, whether cannellinis, kidneys, pintos or black beans. Soak them overnight to boil up the next day or put them to soak in the morning to cook in the evening while you fix supper. Then freeze them in one cup or two or whatever size amounts you like to use. They will thaw so quickly that you can add them frozen to your soup or chili and eat them soon after.

You can also do a speed soak. Bring your dry beans to a boil, set them aside for an hour in the boiling water, and then bring them back to a high heat and cook until they are tender.

Starting with dried beans is also more economical than using the canned ones and they take up less space in your pantry, too. And if kept dry, they last for months.

To make the bean, sausage and kale soup, start with celery, onion, carrot and garlic sauteed in olive oil. You can use bulk or link sausage. We tend to keep spicy Italian link sausage on hand and skin them, break up the meat and brown it for soup.

You can use water or bouillon to simmer the vegetables and meat together, then add some cooked cannellini and shredded kale, fresh or frozen. The beans hold together but soften up in your mouth. Well-cooked kale is tender and silky.

If you use spicy sausage, it will season the whole soup with a pleasant pepper warmth. You can also add ground fennel or toasted fennel seeds. Black pepper brightens up the soup.

Serve it with some croutons floating in it. It’s good for lunch or supper, and wholesome as all get out.

Cannellini, Sausage and Kale Soup

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 rib of celery, chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 links of Italian sausage, sweet or spicy

2 cups cooked cannellini beans

4-6 cups chicken bouillon or water

2 large handfuls of kale, trimmed from the tough stem, and chopped

Salt and pepper

Into a large cook pot, put enough olive oil to cover the bottom and heat it over a medium high heat until it shimmers, then add the chopped onion, celery, carrot, and garlic. Cook for about five minutes or long enough to soften the vegetables.

Meanwhile, remove the sausage casing and break up the meat. Add it to the vegetables in the pot and brown the meat.

Add the bouillon and the beans to the pot, and bring it to a simmer.

Add the kale and allow it to cook in the soup until it is tender.

Sample and adjust, seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.

Serves 6-8 generously

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Sandy Oliver, Taste Buds

Sandy Oliver Sandy is a freelance food writer with the column Taste Buds appearing weekly since 2006 in the Bangor Daily News, and regular columns in Maine Boats, Homes, and Harbors magazine and The Working...