Ham and White Bean Soup with Kale

20140122-092248.jpgOne of my earliest memories of winter is walking off a curb, into a snow bank and finding myself surrounded by snow over my head. It seemed like such a magical thing, to be completely enveloped in soft, noise muffling snow. I may have been only 2 or 3 years old at the time, but that image of looking up and seeing nothing but snow and a peek of sky has stayed with me.

Friends, I am here to tell you that the magic of winter is gone for me. I am cold–are you cold? I am not the biggest fan of cold weather in the best of circumstances, but this winter has just been downright ridiculous. Since I can’t change the weather (I have tried), the best thing I can do is hunker down and eat cozy, warm, comfort foods. Like this soup. For me, winter soups need to be substantial, but also healthy. I like them hearty, with lots of delicious vegetables and either beans or pasta. This rustic white bean soup is easy to make and doesn’t require a lot of chopping or prep work. Easy, warm, nutritious and comforting. Just the thing to help me survive until spring!

I prefer cooking soup in a stock pot, but you can make this soup in a slow cooker by cooking on low for 6-7 hours or on high for 4 hours. Don’t skimp on the rosemary or garlic–they give this dish a lot of great flavor!

A note about the beans: This dish will taste even better if you use dried beans and dehydrate them overnight, but if you are in a hurry you can use canned cannellini beans instead and cut your cooking time to about 45 minutes.

Ham and White Bean Soup with Kale (makes 4 servings)

  • 4 cups (1 quart) organic chicken or vegetable broth
  • 4 cups rehydrated organic white cannellini beans (about 2 cups dry) or 3 cans of organic white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 onion, peeled and diced
  • 3 cloves organic garlic, peeled and minced
  • 2 organic carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large handful of baby kale (or chopped regular greens)
  • 2 springs of fresh rosemary, stems removed and needles chopped
  • 1/2 cup smoked ham, prosciutto or side meat
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Night before (if using dried beans): Put the dried beans in a large bowl and cover with water plus about 2″. Cover and let sit overnight or for 7-8 hours.
  2. In a 10″ saute pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and carrot and saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are soft and the onion is translucent.
  3. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. If using dried beans, drain the beans, discarding the soaking water.
  5. In a stock pot, add all the ingredients except kale, salt and pepper. Heat over medium low and simmer for 4-6 hours. Check every once and a while and if the soup is too thick, add additional stock or water.
  6. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed. Add the kale and simmer for another hour.
  7. Serve hot with crusty bread or a side salad.
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White Bean, Ham and Quinoa Soup

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We definitely have fall here in North Carolina, and it is great soup weather! I love traditional white bean and ham soup–studded with tender white beans and aromatic rosemary, this soup tastes and smells wonderful. The combination of garlic and rosemary is pretty magic, isn’t it?

Although this soup has a thick, creamy texture, it is dairy and gluten free! I get the creaminess from blending some of the beans with an immersion blender. Voila! Creaminess without the fat or lactose of cream! This time I also added some leftover quinoa that was parked in the refrigerator and I have to say, I like it! The quinoa didn’t add any flavor to the soup, which was already very savory, but it did add protein and thickened up the broth even more. It was also very filling. A two-cup serving kept me full from lunch until dinner (bonus–no 3:00 snack craving!).

I used dried beans for this recipe, but if you are in a hurry, you can substitute canned cannellini beans that have been drained and rinsed (look for BPA – free cans). Also, you could leave out the ham and use vegetable stock instead of chicken and make this a vegan dish as well!

You could double this recipe and freeze some for later. This soup freezes wonderfully!

White Bean, Ham and Quinoa Soup (makes 6 servings)

  • 2 1/2 cups dried cannellini beans (white beans)
  • 3 cups homemade chicken stock (or vegetable stock)
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 sweet onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced
  • 3 carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 cooked ham steak or 2 cups leftover cooked ham
  • 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped
  • 1-2 cups cooked white quinoa (or 1/2 cup of uncooked)
  • Kosher or sea salt and ground pepper

If using dried beans, prep the beans the night before by rinsing them and putting them in a bowl. Cover the beans with water + about 2″ of water above the top of the beans. Cover the bowl and let the beans soak overnight.

  1. Put the beans and the stock in a large pot and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to a simmer and cook the beans for 20 minutes.
  2. While the beans simmer, heat the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sauté the onion for about 2 minutes or until soft. Add the carrot and sauté for another 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.
  3. Remove 1 1/2 cups of the beans, plus some cooking liquid from the pot and set aside.
  4. Add the cooked vegetables to the pot and stir.
  5. In a bowl for an immersion blender, combine the beans, cooking liquid and rosemary. Blend until thick, about 5 seconds.
  6. Add the bean paste back to the cooking pot and stir well.
  7. Chop the ham into bite sized pieces and add to the pot, along with the quinoa.
  8. Add salt and pepper to taste.
  9. Simmer the soup for at least one hour if using dried beans (20 minutes for canned beans).
  10. Serve hot with crusty baguettes or with a tossed salad.
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