Perfect for chilly weather, this hearty stew is brimming with smoked ham, potatoes, cabbage and creamy white beans held together by a savory, pork and parmesan broth. In the words of Ina Garten, “how bad can that be?”
You can keep this stew on the brothy side, leaving the beans and vegetables more or less intact, or for a thicker, creamier texture transfer 1-2 cups of soup to a blender, pulse until mostly smooth then the return puréed soup to the pot.
Ham shanks and ham hocks can be used interchangeably in this recipe. Both will add a nice smokey, porky flavor to the stew but shanks have significantly more meat on them. Depending on where you live and shop, shanks may be harder to find while hocks are readily available in most grocery stores. A good butcher will be able to help you find either.
Ingredients You’ll Need:
Scroll to the bottom of the recipe card for comprehensive ingredient notes and substitutions.
Note: You don’t necessarily need to use homemade chicken stock when making this soup (or any soup for that matter) but it is important to use a good-quality stock. It is afterall the entire base for your soup. There are lots options for high-quality stocks and bone broths at the supermarket these days. The freezer section is where you’ll find the best ones. The brand Bonafide is very good and widely available. Some specialty markets and butchers make and sell their own stocks, those are good options too. Avoid boxed or canned stocks if possible.
Recipe Step by Step:
Step 1. Sauté
First, sauté the onion and celery until soft and translucent then add the garlic, cabbage and white beans.
Step 2. Build the Broth
Add the pork shank, parmesan rind (if using) fresh thyme and chicken stock to the pot. Bring to a very slow and slow simmer. Cover and cook for 30 minutes to infuse the stock with pork and parmesan flavor. After 30 minutes add in the diced potato, continue cooking until tender. Note: If you like a brothy soup leave everything as-is. If you prefer a thicker, creamier soup; transfer 1-2 cups of broth, potatoes and vegetables to a blender and pulse until mostly smooth then pour the blended soup back into the pot and stir to combine.
Step 3. Shred the Ham Shank
Using tongs, transfer the ham shank to a cutting board and set aside until cool enough to handle. Once cool, use clean hands (gloves come in handy here) or two forks to shred the meat into bite sized pieces; discard the skin, bones, and fat then add the shredded ham back into the soup, stir to combine. To serve, divide between bowls, top with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and grated parmesan cheese.
Ham Shanks vs Ham Hocks
- Ham shanks and ham hocks are both cuts of cured and smoked pork that are often used in soups, stews, and other slow-cooked dishes.
- Ham shanks are cut from the upper part of the pig’s leg, just below the shoulder or hip. They are larger and meatier than ham hocks, with a lower proportion of bone to meat.
- Ham hocks are the joint that attaches a pig’s foot to its leg. They are relatively small and bony, with a higher proportion of bone to meat than ham shanks. Ham hocks are a good source of collagen, which adds richness and viscocity to soups and stews.
Soup and Stew Recipes
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Smoked Ham and White Bean Stew with Potatoes and Parmesan
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion diced
- 2 stalks celery diced
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 2 heaping cups roughly chopped cabbage green, savoy or napa cabbage
- 1 15 ounces can white beans, drained and rinsed navy, cannellini or great northern
- 1 large ham shank or ham hock between 1.5-2 pounds *see notes for further details*
- 8 cups chicken stock
- 4 sprigs fresh thyme
- 1 small parmesan rind, about 2oz optional
- 1 medium russet potato peeled and diced
- 1 cup grated parmesan cheese for serving
- salt and freshly cracked black pepper
- In a large dutch oven or similar large soup pot, heat the oil over medium-high heat until shimmering then, add the diced onion and celery along with a generous pinch of salt. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion is soft and aromatic, then add the cabbage, white beans and garlic, continue cooking and stirring for another 3-5 minutes.
- Next, gently place the ham shank into the pot followed by the chicken stock, thyme and parmesan rind (if using). Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
- After 30 minutes, remove the lid then add the diced potato, stir to combine. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally until the potatoes are tender, about 20 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the ham shank to a cutting board, set aside until cool enough to handle. Pluck out and discard the thyme stems and parmesan rind. Note: If you like a brothy soup leave everything as-is. If you prefer a thicker, creamier soup; transfer 1-2 cups of broth, potatoes and vegetables to a blender and pulse until mostly smooth then pour the blended soup back into the pot and stir to combine.
- Once the ham shank is cool enough to handle, use clean hands (gloves are handy here) or two forks to shred the meat into bite sized pieces; discard the skin, bones, and fat. Add the shredded ham back into the soup, stir to combine.
- Just before serving taste the soup and adjust the seasonings as needed. Divide between bowls, top with lots of freshly cracked black pepper and grated parmesan cheese – serve right away.
- Ham shanks and ham hocks are cured and smoked cuts of pork that can be used in soups, stews, and other slow-cooked dishes. You can use them interchangeably in this recipe, both shanks and hocks will add a nice smokey, porky flavor to the stew but the shanks have significantly more meat. Hocks are readily available in most grovery stores, depending on where you live and shop, shanks may be harder to find.
- Chicken Stock: Vegetable stock, turkey stock or water can be substituted instead of chicken stock.
- White Beans: almost any white beans will do! Since this recipe calls for two cans I like to use two different beans. Garbanzo, navy beans, cannellini and butter beans will all work.
- Leftover soup will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat over low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave.
- Freezing Instructions: Cool the soup completely then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, defrost the soup overnight in refrigerator then warm in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat until hot – stir well.