Barley Soup with Kale

You can't go wrong when the base layer of a soup is crisped cured pork. It infuses everything else with a little smoky pork-iness. And other than that, the soup is vegetable-laden and healthy and doesn't feel heavy at all. This recipe also makes a ton of food, so you get a lot of bang for your buck. Needless to say, I made it a lot this winter. I used this recipe from Bon Appetit, with adjustments.

Total time to cook: 1.5 hours
Makes six to eight servings

1 medium white or yellow onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1-2 cups sliced baby bella mushrooms
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra to drizzle
3 oz pancetta, cut into very small pieces
1 cup barley
3 cloves garlic, minced
Ground black pepper
1 tbsp tomato paste
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
12 cups low-sodium chicken broth
3-4 cups kale, ripped into medium pieces
1 15-oz can cannelini beans, rinsed and dried
Parmesean, to grate on top of the soup
- In a large pot, heat the two tablespoons of olive oil. Mix in the pancetta and cook until it starts to turn golden brown, about three minutes (you'll want to stir regularly.)
- Stir in the barley and cook until it also turns golden brown, another three minutes.
- Add in the onion, mushrooms, carrots and garlic. Cook until the vegetables soften, about five minutes.
- Stir in the tomato paste and crushed red pepper.  Mix constantly until the tomato paste coats everything and darkens, about one minute.
- Pour in the chicken broth and season with black pepper. Bring the broth to a boil, then bring the heat down to low, cover and simmer for about an hour. The barley should be fully cooked.
- Stir in the kale and cannelini beans. Cook for five minutes, until the kale is wilted and warm.
- Ladle the soup into bowls. Drizzle a little olive oil on top and add a few pinches of grated parmesean.

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