25 February 2008

Minestrone with Italian Sausage

I made this soup for a friend who had just had her second baby. She asked for a healthy alternative to the usual "pasta bake/enchilada" meals normally brought to new mothers.

Yield: 8-10 servings

2 T olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
1 med. leek, thinly sliced
1 cup diced carrot
3/4 cup diced celery
2 cups diced zucchini
1 med. fennel bulb, quartered and thinly sliced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock (or water)
2 15 oz. cans navy beans (or sub 1 can of chickpeas for 1 can of navy beans)
1 cup packed, chopped kale
1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained (I used Muir Glen fire-roasted)
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes or tomato puree
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
4 links Italian sausage (I used Italian chicken sausage)
1/2 cup dry red wine.
Shredded Parmesan cheese
Chiffonade of fresh basil

Heat 1 T oil in a large stockpot or dutch oven over medium-high heat.
Add onion; sauté 4 minutes or until translucent. Add celery, carrots,
zucchini and fennel. Saute 5-6 minutes more to soften vegetables.
Stir in garlic; saute 1-2 min. more. Add stock and next 7 ingredients
beans (through red pepper flakes); bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat
to a low simmer.
In a separate saute pan, heat remaining oil over high heat. Brown
sausages well on all sides. Carefully remove sausages and thinly
slice. (Return slices to pan to finish cooking, if necessary.) When
sausage is cooked through, remove from pan and add to soup pot, reserving
accumulated juices in saute pan. Return pan to medium-high heat and
deglaze with red wine, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom.
Simmer 1 minute to reduce wine and accumulated juices. Stir mixture
into the stockpot.

Bring soup back to a boil and then reduce heat. Simmer on low for at least one hour. Salt and pepper to taste.

To serve, ladle into individual bowls and sprinkle with Parmeson and a little fresh basil.

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