This hearty winter soup is a twist on the classic Croatian Jota thick soup, where pickled cabbage or sauerkraut is the main ingredient. Throughout the country, there are many variations of this soup. These adaptations feature an assortment of ingredients, including carrots or potatoes, and smoked sausages, pancetta, or cured pork meats.
Jota is a traditional dish that originates from the regions of Slovenia, Croatia, and Friuli Venezia Giulia in northeastern Italy. Its name might vary slightly across regions – for instance, it’s known as “Jota” in Slovenian and Croatian, while in Italian, it’s often referred to as “Iota.” This hearty and flavorful soup has deep roots in the culinary traditions of these areas, reflecting the historical and cultural ties among them.
In this particular recipe, the distinctive flavour comes from using pickled swede or turnip instead of sauerkraut. Drawing inspiration from my mum’s version, which featured pancetta and red kidney beans without pasta, I’ve prepared many variations of this dish, it became one of my cherished winter warmers. Here, I’ve combined both red kidney beans and cannelloni with some German smoked sausages. The beauty of this recipe lies in its versatility, allowing you to craft your own variations, whether with or without meat for a vegetarian option.
Essential Ingredients & Substitutions
- pickled swede or turnip – You can try and prepare your own pickled swede or opt for a ready-made version. Unfortunately, I haven’t come across any in UK supermarkets. They usually stock sauerkraut or a mix of cabbage and grated carrots. It’s worth checking local shops that carry Central European products, as they might have pre-made pickled swede.
If you can’t find pickled swede, you can prepare it with sauerkraut. Fresh cabbage is an option too—just ensure it’s thinly sliced, or use a food processor with a grating attachment.
- beans – Red kidney beans are a traditional choice for this recipe. I added cannelloni for some variety. If you don’t have red kidney beans, feel free to substitute them with any beans you prefer. You can even toss in some chickpeas. The red kidney beans contribute to the darker colour of the dish.
- sausages – Smoked sausages are the typical choice, but you can also prepare the dish with pancetta, as prepared in the coastal parts of Croatia. Alternatively, cured pork meats work well too. Feel free to use various types of meats for a rich and flavourful dish, or select any cured or smoked meat that suits your taste. The key is to infuse a smoky essence into the dish!
- garlic – Opt for fresh garlic over powder; trust me, it makes a significant difference. Don’t hold back on the garlic – stick to the recipe for that perfect taste!
- sweet and smoked paprika – Add a burst of colour and a hint of smokiness to your dish. Smoked one is particularly crucial when preparing a vegetarian version (without smoked meat).
- white wine vinegar – brings a tangy twist to the dish, pairing perfectly with the pickled swede.
Cooking & Tips
If you’re using sausages, cut them into small cubes or slices and fry them together with onions to caramelize slightly, giving that specific smoky taste.
If you opt for dry beans or chickpeas, be sure to add them right at the beginning of cooking as they require a longer cooking time. Or you can cook them separately and then add them as per the recipe. If using canned beans, the dish is ready in a very short time!
Keep an eye when adding pasta; it tends to soak up liquid, so stir frequently to prevent burning at the bottom. If needed, add water and adjust the seasoning towards the end.
Presentation & Serving
Serve this hearty winter soup in a large bowl – it’s a main meal! Don’t forget the bread for dunking. If you’ve got a big piece of pork in there (not just small cubes of pancetta or sliced sausages), take it out and cut it into smaller pieces on a plate. Sprinkle fresh chopped parsley on top and add some grated hard cheese of your choice. Enjoy!
Croatian pickled swede with beans and sausages
- 400 g red kidney beans - canned
- 400 g white beans - canned
- 400 g sauerkraut
- 4 sausages - smoked
- 2 onions
- 3-4 cloves garlic
- 3 tbsp parsley
- 2-3 bay leaf
- 1 tsp sweet paprika
- 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
- 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
- 1/2 cup spaghetti pasta - broken into small pieces
- a few tbsp olive oil
- salt, black pepper - to taste
- 25 g butter
- 1 tbsp flour
- Heat the oil in a large pot, add chopped onions and sliced sausages ( or pancetta cubetti), and sauté for about 3-5 minutes over medium heat.
- Then add the swede and a tablespoon of parsley, and continue sautéing for another 4-5 minutes. In the last minute, add finely chopped garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Pour in water, add ground paprika, bay leaf, and vinegar, and stir. Cook for about 25 minutes. Swede should not become too soft.
- Now add broken spaghetti pieces (around 3 cm long), pour in more water, and cook for an additional 10 minutes, ensuring the pasta cooks thoroughly. Remember to mix it from time to time to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom.
- In the last 5 minutes of cooking, add canned beans and stir well.
- In a small pan, add butter and flour, and sauté while stirring for about 1-2 minutes. The flour should turn golden, but be careful not to burn it.
- Then add the roux to the beans and swede. Mix well. leave to simmer for 1-2 minutes, then stir in the remaining parsley. Add more water if you prefer a thin soup or cook longer for a thick one.