When the weather turns cold and it’s time for supper, I think soup.

Not the brothy chicken soup you want when your sick.  Winter calls for a hearty, stick-to-your-ribs kinda soup.

But sometimes, those soups can be heavy and make you lethargic.  Y’know the feeling, too much chili in your belly.  Or potatoes.  Or cream.   You’re warm and relaxed on the couch  after that hearty soup but the children need to go to bed and all you can do is say, “hey, kids, time for bed,” and pull the blanket up around your chin.

Or maybe that’s just me.

Well, my friend shared with me a soup that will fill your winter cravings and not lead you into a food-induced coma.

Begin with beans. Just two cans of Great Northern beans.

Drain them and dump them into your crock pot along with 1/2 a can of water.  Now, some beef stock.

You’ll need 1 and 3/4 cups of beef broth or stock.  Pour that into the crock too.

Now, the recipe calls for 12 ounces fresh Italian Sausage links, cut into 1/2-inch slices.  That would be lovely.

But I couldn’t find it at my store.  So, I improvised.

I bought a pound of sage sausage, cut it into quarters, and cut those sticks into 1/2 inch slices.   

Whether you’ve got the links or the improvisation, brown your sausage in a skillet.

As it was cooking, I decided it did not smell Italian enough to pass for Italian sausage.  So I added some spices, the ones I usually use in Italian cooking: parsley, oregano, garlic, pepper. 

Of course, the main spice in Italian sausage is fennel seed.  If you really want Italian sausage, mix in 1/2 teaspoon of fennel seed by hand before breaking up the sausage. 

I don’ t like fennel seed.  I don’t really like Italian sausage, on pizza and stuff.  I used to think, this sausage is nice except for the occasional licorice-y taste.  Man, what is that weird taste.  I think it’s these seeds. . .

Fennel seed. Some people love it, others not so much.

Back to the soup.

Once your sausage is browned, drain off all the grease.  You don’t need that in your soup.  But, please, do not, under any circumstances, pour it down your drain.  Why? See here.

You’re also going to need some sliced zucchini or yellow squash.  About 2 Cups.  (Note: I had already dumped most of the zuke in when I took the pic.)  Add it to the pot.

Also, 1/2 cup of chopped onion. First, slice this way, not cutting all the way to the onion stem.  

Then slice this way and watch as the onion magically dices!

You’ll also need to add one mince garlic clove.

And 1/2 teaspoon of dried Italian seasoning.  If you don’t have it, just shake in a bit of the ones I mentioned earlier. 

Some basil would be good too.

Finally, one can of Italian-style tomatoes, or stewed tomatoes,

cut up.  Here’s how I do it:

And finally, 1/3 cup of red wine or water.

Cook on low for about 6-8 hours. 

When you get home, or ready to eat, add about 1/3 cup of lemon juice from a bottle or the juice of one fresh lemon.  And half a ten ounce package of frozen spinach, thawed and drained.

Top with parmesan cheese and enjoy.

TUSCAN SAUSAGE AND BEAN SOUP RECIPE

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