This soup is a flavorful riff on a classic Italian escarole and white bean soup, which always features a generous amount of beans and greens in relation to the broth. The broth here gains background flavor from leeks, garlic and bacon – and a deep earthiness from the Tuscan kale that simmers in it. Lemon juice, Parmigiano and rustic croutons are key to bringing all the flavors together.  

I love the fact that this soup manages to feel hearty and light at the same time. It makes a great supper and is best eaten on the day it’s made. The ingredients can be prepped a few hours ahead, and you can make and freeze the Rustic Croutons any time.

When you serve the soup, portion the kale and beans into four bowls and then evenly divide the remaining broth between the bowls (it will barely cover the beans and greens). Garnish each with some of the bacon, a quarter of the Parmigiano and as many croutons as you like.

Susie Middleton

Serves 4

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 ounces thick-cut bacon or sliced pancetta, cut into medium (3/8-inch) dice (about 1/2 cup)
  • 2 cups thinly sliced leeks, white and light green parts
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped garlic
  • 6 cups torn or roughly chopped stemmed Tuscan kale leaves (from about 1 large bunch)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • One 15.5-ounce can of white beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 to 3 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 cup coarsely grated Parmigiano-Regianno
  • 2 cups Rustic Croutons

1. Put the leeks in a bowl of tepid water, swish around and let sit for 10 minutes or so or while you cook the bacon.

2. In a medium (4- to 5-quart) Dutch oven or other soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon or pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until rendered and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon or pancetta to a paper-towel lined plate. Spoon off all but 2 tablespoons of the fat. Turn the heat to low.

3. Lift the leeks out of the water and transfer them (some water still clinging to them) directly to the pot. (Take care – the water will spatter.) Season with ¼ teaspoon salt. Return the heat to medium. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leeks are softened, about 5 to 6 minutes.

4. Uncover and continue cooking, stirring frequently until the leeks are very soft, shrunken, browned in places and beginning to leave browned bits on the bottom of the pan, about another 6 to 7 minutes. Add the garlic, stir, and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the kale and season with 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Stir the kale as it begins to wilt, mixing it well with the contents of the pot.

5. When the kale is mostly wilted, add the chicken broth and 1 cup water, stir well, bring to a boil, and lower to a simmer. Cover and cook until the greens are tender, about 8 minutes. Uncover, add the beans, and simmer for 2 more minutes.

6. Add 1 to 2 teaspoons of the lemon juice, stir, and remove the pan from the heat. Taste the soup and adjust the seasoning with more salt, pepper, or lemon juice if needed.

7. Ladle the soup into four soup bowls. (Ideally these will be shallow soup bowls, though deep soup bowls like the ones shown in the photo will be fine, too.) Top each with some of the bacon, a quarter of the Parmigiano, and a generous portion of croutons. Serve right away.