By Babs Rodriguez
Photos by Meda Kessler
This hearty dish hails from Candace Smythe’s New Jersey in-laws, but her Texas touch makes it a family favorite
Candace Smythe enjoys the process of making recipes her own. “Cooking is my passion and my calm. I don’t need an audience. Typically, I’ll put on Aretha Franklin and just lose myself in the process of prepping and creating.” The Texas native lives in Southlake with her husband, Mark Smythe, and their son, who is a junior at Carroll Senior High School. A daughter recently graduated from college. She warms up her kitchen in cooler months with a go-to soup that she first ate at her mother-in-law’s New Jersey home. The hearty dish features what she says the natives call “shcarole” — escarole — a leafy green that is used in many Italian-influenced dishes. “The first time my mother-in-law made me ‘shcarole,’ I literally had no idea what I was eating.” After she figured out what escarole was, Candace made this soup recipe, tweaking it over the years. It is now one of her family’s all-time favorite dishes, although she sometimes skips the escarole in favor of Swiss chard. “I add rainbow chard and carrots for color and additional nutrition and sometimes spinach, too,” says Candace. “And because my family enjoys a double dose of starch, I add potatoes to the soup and serve it over pasta. It’s really evolved to be my own family recipe that gets requested more than any other soup I make.”
Escarole and Sausage Soup
- 1 pound mild or sweet Italian sausage, ground
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage, ground
- Olive oil
- 1 cup potatoes (any type), chopped small
- 2-3 carrots, diced
- 1 large sweet onion, diced
- 5-10 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 (32-ounce) boxes chicken broth
- 2 cans (15-ounce) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (leave 1 can undrained)
- ½ cup Parmesan cheese, grated, plus more for garnish
- 1 bunch escarole or Swiss chard, preferably rainbow, chopped
- Salt, pepper, dried or fresh herbs (oregano, parsley, basil), all to taste
- Fresh herbs for garnish
- 1 pound ditalini pasta, cooked and drained, see Note
Note Do not add ditalini to soup, as the pasta will absorb too much liquid.
Saute sausage till browned; drain on paper towels. In a Dutch oven or soup pot, add a little olive oil and saute potatoes, carrots and onion until potatoes start to soften; season to taste with salt, pepper and herbs of your choice.
Add garlic and continue to saute, approximately 3 minutes. Add drained sausage back to the pot. Add chicken broth, beans and cheese. Bring to a boil, then add escarole or Swiss chard. Season to taste with salt, pepper and herbs of choice and let simmer for 30 minutes, adding more broth as needed to keep it soupy.
Ladle over drained ditalini in soup bowls and garnish with fresh herbs of your choice. Serve with more grated Parmesan and crusty bread.