Friday, November 4, 2011

Celebrating the Return of "Soup Weather"...Sausage-White Bean Minestrone

Well…it’s finally happened. Fall has (finally!!!) officially arrived in Texas!! For a while there, I thought that this especially long and hot summer would NEVER end. I’m wearing a light sweater today and enjoying the cool north breeze…we even had a small fire in our fireplace last night. This weather makes me want to get into the kitchen and make a big pot of soup. We had our first real cool snap of the season last week, so I made a big pot of chicken and sausage gumbo last Sunday. Since I shared the recipe in here last year, I didn’t post it…but it sure was good! 

I promised myself to make the soup I’m sharing in here today the next time we had a chilly night. Last night was that night. This is my adaptation of Tyler Florence’s Hunter’s Minestrone…this soup is hearty and so delicious! It’s got a lot going on, but it’s simple enough to make on a weeknight if you buy pre-chopped veggies. This soup is literally a meal-in-a-bowl. It features bulk Italian sausage, cannellini beans, and plenty of good-for-you veggies: tomatoes, carrots, onion, and celery. Add some rigatoni and fresh rosemary and sage, and you’ve got a meal that will warm you up on the chilliest of evenings! 

My tweaks to the original recipe are mainly because Michael doesn't care for beans that much. So, I cut the amount of beans in half and upped the amount of sausage just a bit to account for that. I also add 1/2 cup of red wine along with the chicken stock. It gives the minestrone a special depth of flavor that you don't get without it. I also give each bowl a little sprinkle of parm-reggiano just before serving.

Sausage-White Bean Minestrone
adapted from Tyler's Ultimate

Step 1:  Add 1 tbs. olive oil and 1 lb. bulk Italian sausage to a large Dutch oven over med-high heat. Cook until browned, breaking up the sausage into bite-sized pieces. Carefully drain off any excess fat. Turn the heat to medium and add the following: 1 finely chopped large carrot, 1/2 finely chopped yellow onion, 2 finely chopped stalks of celery, and 3 grated cloves garlic. 

Step 2:  Give the veggies and sausage a stir to combine and cook for about 5 minutes, until they begin to soften. Add 1 chopped sprig rosemary, 5 chopped fresh sage leaves, 2-3 bay leaves, and 1/2 cup red wine. Stir to combine.

Step 3:  Add 8 cups chicken stock, 1 can diced tomatoes (Red Gold is my preferred brand), one can drained white beans, and a handful of chopped Italian parsley. Bring the soup just to a boil, then lower heat to med-low. Cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes...but an hour is better if you have the time.

Step 4:  After the soup has simmered, add 8 ounces rigatoni. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the pasta is cooked. This gives you just enough time to make some garlic-cheese bread to serve on the side. To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and top with a sprinkle of parm-reggiano cheese. 

This minestrone is amazingly good...and it's the perfect way to get the non-veggie lovers in your life to happily eat their veggies (and ask for seconds)! As an added bonus, it's also full of such pretty colors. I especially like to dunk my garlic-cheese bread into the flavorful broth. If you're a bean lover, feel free to double the amount of white beans. As a bonus, any leftovers are even better the next day. Since it’s just the two of us at Casa Garcia, we're able to get two dinners from each pot…and lunch one day as well. 

Hope everyone has a lovely weekend! I'm working a few hours tomorrow...yes, on Saturday...but I've got Sunday free. Michael and I plan to watch the Texans game, and then we're going on a BBQ roadie to Texas Pride BBQ with a friend afterward. I plan to take lots of pictures and will share the fun in here on Monday. Until then, enjoy the cool weather...and cook up a pot of soup this weekend!

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