I learned about this dish years ago from my friend and longtime barber Italo DeMasi of the landmark Bruno’s Barber Shop in Natick.  His stories about Calabrian food invariably send me home with ideas, but it all started here.  More than just a recipe, Minestra is a manifestation of an approach to living.  That philosophy is waste nothing, and it speaks to my soul.  This version uses kale, but it could easily leverage collards, bok choi, or cabbage.  One of my favorite variations uses broccoli leaves – you know, the leaves that many people discard. 

This go-to dish shows up at least once a week at our dinner table.  It’s hearty enough to serve as a main dish, although it pairs beautifully with something off the grill.  

Prep time:  10 minutes
Cook time:  15 minutes
Serves:  4 as a side dish


3-4 tablespoons olive oil

1 bunch kale, stems separated and cut into 1/4″ sections, leaves coarsely chopped
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, with liquid (or equivalent prepared dry beans)
Parmesan cheese


Heat the olive oil in a large saute pan or skillet over medium heat and cook the kale stems and garlic, stirring, for 4 minutes.  Add the kale leaves, cover, turn heat to medium-low, and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add the cannellini beans with their liquid, and continue to cook until kale leaves and stems reach the degree of tenderness you like.

Serve sprinkled with shredded Parmesan, salt and pepper.

A version made with broccoli florets:

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