Why It Works
- The soft spreadable texture and high fat content of 'nduja allows it to easily emulsify and meld with the beans as they simmer, lending them floral heat from the Calabrian chilies and meaty richness from the pork.
- Lightly wilted kale balances the rich creaminess of the beans and 'nduja, while lemon juice provides a pop of bright acidity.
- An easy, lemony, and herby breadcrumb topping gives the dish some crunchy textural contrast.
Beans and greens are a classic duo that works for saucing pasta, topping crusty grilled bread, or on its own as a simple and hearty soup. For this simple weeknight recipe, we give creamy white beans and earthy lacinato kale a funky, fiery, porky boost with the addition of 'nduja.
'Nduja is a spicy, spreadable fermented pork sausage that originated in the southern Italian region of Calabria. Most cured sausages have a three-to-one lean-meat-to-fat ratio, but 'nduja flips that ratio and boasts a three-to-one fat-to-meat ratio. This high fat content gives 'nduja its soft, spreadable texture and allows it to easily emulsify and meld into sauces, stews, and the like. 'Nduja also brings plenty of floral heat from crushed Calabrian chilies, which comprise 30% of the sausage mixture. It is also lightly smoked and fermented, which gives the sausage deep flavor with a nice funky finish.
Here, 'nduja gives meaty richness to a simple stew of white beans and greens that comes together in just 30 minutes. We finish the dish with a crunchy, gremolata-inspired breadcrumb topping that's brightened up with parsley and lemon zest. Keeping flavor-bomb ingredients like 'nduja in your fridge makes it easy to pull off super-tasty and super-easy weeknight dinners.
- For the Beans:
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 3 large shallots (4 1/2 ounces; 125g), thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves (10g), thinly sliced
- Kosher salt
- 4 ounces (1/2 cup; 113g) 'nduja (see note)
- 3 (15-ounce) cans low-sodium white beans (cannellini or Great Northern), drained and rinsed
- 1 quart (950ml) homemade or store-bought low-sodium chicken stock
- 1 bunch (8 ounces; 225g) lacinato kale, tough stems removed, leaves cut into 1-inch pieces (see note)
- 1 tablespoon (15ml) fresh lemon juice (from one lemon; zest finely grated and set aside before juicing fruit)
- For the Gremolata Breadcrumbs: (optional)
- 2 tablespoons (30ml) extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup (1 1/4 ounces; 35g) panko breadcrumbs
- 1/4 cup (15g) chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
- Finely grated zest from one lemon
For the Beans: In large, straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat until shimmering. Add shallots and garlic, season lightly with salt, and cook, stirring frequently, until softened but not brown, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add 'nduja and, using a wooden spoon, break it into pieces and stir vigorously to combine with shallots and garlic. Continue to cook, stirring frequently, until fat from 'nduja separates, and shallots and garlic are stained red and fully coated with 'nduja, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
Add beans. Use wooden spoon to crush roughly 1/4 of the beans against sides and bottom of the pan. Stir until beans are fully incorporated and coated in 'nduja-shallot mixture.
Add chicken stock, season lightly with salt, and bring to a simmer. Cook, stirring occasionally, until thickened to a creamy, stew-like consistency, with some beans just poking out on the surface, about 15 minutes.
Add kale, and stir to incorporate and very lightly wilt the greens, about 30 seconds. Remove from heat, stir in lemon juice, and season to taste with salt.
For the Gremolata Breadcrumbs: While the beans simmer, combine oil and breadcrumbs in medium skillet, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until toasted and golden brown, 5 to 7 minutes. Add parsley and lemon zest, season lightly with salt, stir to combine, and continue to cook until parsley begins to sizzle and mixture is very fragrant of citrus, 30 seconds to 1 minute. Transfer breadcrumb mixture to small bowl and set aside until you are ready to serve.
For Serving: Divide beans between individual serving bowls and sprinkle with gremolata breadcrumbs. Serve immediately, passing more breadcrumbs at the table.
Straight-sided sauté pan or Dutch oven
'Nduja is a spicy spreadable pork salame that originates from the southern Italian region of Calabria. In the US, it can be purchased at specialty shops that carry salumi/charcuterie, Italian markets, or online from producers like Tempesta Artisan Salumi. Look for 'nduja made with just 4 ingredients: pork, Calabrian chilies, salt, and lactic acid.
Lacinato kale is also known as Tuscan, dinosaur, or black kale.
Make-Ahead and Storage
The finished beans can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days. The gremolata breadcrumbs can be stored at room temperature in an airtight container for up to 2 days.