This is a hearty, pasta-free soup, fit for a winter meal. Lots of vegetables, sausage (either chicken or pork sausage can be used), and cooking liquid from cannellini beans (canned or homemade) lead to a chunky, filling soup with a rich mouth feel.
Developing a fond while cooking the sausage will add an important foundation to the soup’s flavor. Deglazing this fond early, before cooking the vegetables in the same pot, will prevent it from burning.
Ideally, the vegetables should be soft but not browned; if they are not softening sufficiently during the sauté, simmer them longer in the broth, rather than extending the sauté.
You can substitute your preferred herbs for the Italian seasoning that I use. If using fresh herbs, add them at the very end, or just before serving.
If you wish to add pasta, ditalini works well. Cook the pasta separately, and add it just before serving, to avoid the pasta absorbing too much of the broth during cooking or storage.
- 1 12 oz package chicken sausage
- 1/2 cup water or chicken broth, for deglazing
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped carrots
- 1 cup chopped celery
- 1 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1 7 oz bag fresh chopped escarole
- 2 15 oz cans cannellini beans, not rinsed or drained
- 8 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 1 tsp Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- (Optional) Fresh squeezed lemon juice, to taste
- (Garnish) Freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
In a large pot or Dutch oven, brown the sausage in 1 tbsp of olive oil for 4 minutes per side over medium heat. This will likely not cook it through, which is fine; it will cook through later in the soup. Remove the sausage and set it aside.
Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup water or chicken broth. Retain this liquid in a cup or bowl; it will be added back to the soup later. If the retained liquid contains any solids, strain it to remove them.
Once the par-cooked sausage is cool enough, cut it into coins and set it aside, to be added back to the pot later.
Dry out the pot and add 1 tbsp olive oil. Sauté the onion, carrots, and celery over medium heat until they are soft but not browned, about 10 minutes. If the vegetables are not completely soft after the sauté, that is OK; they can be softened after the liquid is added. Add the escarole and Italian seasoning and stir everything to combine.
Add the chicken broth, and add back the retained liquid from deglazing. Raise the temperature to high until the broth starts to boil; then lower the temperature to medium or medium low, to maintain a low simmer. Simmer until the vegetables are soft, which can take 5 to 10 minutes.
Add the cannellini beans, including their cooking liquid, and the sausage. (These ingredients are added later to avoid overcooking them, which would lead to split beans and tough sausage.) Continue to simmer until the sausage is cooked through, which will take only a few minutes.
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. If, at this point, the soup tastes dull, add some fresh squeezed lemon juice, little by little, until the broth tastes as bright as you want it to.
Serve topped with finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.