Throwback to seven winters ago, when Sunday was a day devoted to nonfunctional recovery. A typical day involved sleeping until at least noon, usually in near-darkness, and wouldn’t often go much further than moving from bed to couch and getting my then-boyfriend (who is still my boyfriend, but less of a degenerate) to order BBQ delivery to my house. I would take a shower but sit on the floor while i washed my hair. And not because I was hungover — to know me is to know I have the alcohol tolerance of an ox — but because I was so burnt out that doing anything involving a cognitive function was borderline unthinkable. Laundry piled up for weeks until eventually I bought new underwear. Dinner was either defrosted or delivered by Dominos.
Today, I am an adult whose burnout prevention is a Sunday spent completing ritualized tasks and “preparing for the week ahead” via massive amounts of cooking, followed by massive amounts of cleaning, followed by a shower. Among these cooking tasks (a batch of 3-hour Instant Pot bone broth being one of them; a story for another day) is usually some sort of soupy, brothy, kale-containing concoction for dinner to really set the week down the right aspirational path.
The template is often the same: a ton of garlic and onion, a protein or two, a starchy thing, a green thing, a brothy binder, some savory accoutrement, and either a cream or zest factor (but not both). This week I was bored of lentils and chicken, and this little deviant was born: containing all the joy of a sausage pasta, but with a buttload of greens and a soupy quality that screams out into the void for bread to be dipped into it.
It goes great with a clean house, coolish weather, big aspirations for the week, and a comically large spoon.
Effortful time: 20 minutes
Total time: 50 minutes
1 lb. mild chicken sausage, removed from casings
2 tbsp. olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp. double-concentrated tomato paste
4 cups chicken stock
1 28 oz. can chopped tomatoes — I used Pomi “finely chopped” and they were perfect
1 1/2 cups (1 can) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 tsp. salt
2 tsp. italian herb blend — or 1/2 tsp each parsley, thyme, basil, and oregano
2 bay leaves
1 parmesan rind, optional
8 oz. orzo
5 oz. chopped tuscan kale
2 tbsp. heavy cream, optional but recommended
Cracked black pepper
Olive oil, for drizzling
Parmiggiano-reggiano, for serving
Heat 1 tbsp. olive oil in a dutch oven over medium-high heat. De-case and add the sausage in bite-sized pieces and brown, loosening the sausage from the bottom periodically. Do this for about 5 minutes. Remove sausage from pan.
Lower the heat to medium. Using the same pot oil, sauté your onions until translucent, about 6 minutes.
Add the minced garlic and quickly sauté until the garlic is softened but not toasted, under 2 minutes. Add the tomato paste and herbs and stir to coat the onion/garlic mix (this will also help caramelize the raw tomato paste.) Add a splash of your stock here to deglaze the bottom bits, scraping up the sausage remnants. Return the sausage to the pot.
Add the chopped tomatoes, stock, and drained/rinsed beans. Tuck in the bay leaves, and get your parm rind nestled in there if you’re using one. Lower the heat to a simmer and cook, uncovered, stirring every 10 minutes or so, for about 30 minutes. It really can’t be “overcooked” — but the longer you cook it, the more your tomatoes will turn from red to that burnished orange that indicates magic has happened. I gave it about 35 minutes at this step because I got preoccupied with an episode of The Good Place.
After 30ish minutes, add the dry orzo and chopped kale to the pot and stir. If things are looking dry or a lot of evaporation happened, add more stock or water to re-hydrate.
Cook for 8 more minutes until the orzo is fully tender and the kale is very soft. While still over low heat, stir in the cream if you like. I really recommend it: using cream mellows everything out, softens the tomato bite, and takes the texture from brothy to lofty, but since it’s a small amount, adding it won’t turn it into a heavy soup brick.
Serve each bowl with a drizzle of Good Olive Oil, a shaving of Good Parmesan, a crackling of Good Pepper, and marvel at the fact that you have no Bad Ingredients to use anymore because you are an adult who is fully self-actualized or whatever!