Usually, this soup, an Italian classic, is made with cannelini beans and escarole. Lucky for me that my grocer doesn’t stock escarole, because it forced me to experiment, and in turn come up with amazing results. Since our objective is to add lots of vegetables to almost every recipe, I replaced the escarole with Swiss chard and spinach, and then added mushrooms, carrots and leeks. Another fortunate accident, forgetting parmesan cheese at the store, had me searching the refrigerator for something to use in its place. My eyes landed on a container of pesto sauce, so I spooned it into the soup.
When you stray as much as I did from a recipe, there are always doubts. I worried that it might not taste how I thought it would, but when everyone at the table is commenting, “This is the best soup ever,” I knew that I had nothing to be concerned about, except maybe wondering if I made enough of this heart- and body-warmer full of healthy greens and fresh herbs and vegetables.
Preparation of this soup is simple unless you decide to make the beans and pesto from scratch. I made it on an evening after work, and we managed to have dinner on time.
1 32 oz. gluten-free organic chicken broth box
2 cans cannelini beans
1 package hot turkey Italian sausage or soy Italian sausage, broken into bite-sized chunks, casings removed (optional)
1 bunch spinach, washed
1 bunch Swiss chard, washed
1 organic leek, sliced
2 – 3 organic carrots, sliced
1 cup sliced baby bella mushrooms
1/2 cup good quality gluten-free pesto sauce (or make your own)
1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
2 tsp. fresh thyme
1. tsp. fresh rosemary
1 tsp. dried Mediterranean oregano
1 tsp. fennel seeds
1. In a large stock pot over medium heat, pour the chicken broth and cannelini beans.
2. Add the washed spinach whole, stems and all. Chop the washed Swiss chard crossways and add both greens too the pot.
3. Add the sliced mushrooms, carrots and leeks,
4. In a few minutes, the vegetables will begin to cook down. Once there is room in the pot, add the herbs and spices.
5. Turn the flame down to low, and cover the pot. Simmer for 1 hour, stirring occasionally.
6. After one hour, add the Italian sausage and pesto sauce. Continue simmering for an additional 15 minutes.
7. Turn the flame off and let the soup cool for five to seven minutes before serving. This allows the flavors to settle.
8. Enjoy this hearty, slightly spicy soup.
Note: Usually, soups and stews are better the next day, but this one was excellent on the first day and absolutely phenomenal on the second.