Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Minestrone With Sausage and Tortellini

A hearty bowl of soup on a cold winter day is so soothing and nuturing. I love making soup. I love the way it makes my house smell. I love the anticipation of sitting down to a steaming bowl with just a loaf of warm, crusty bread to accompany it. Sigh...
Here is a recipe that fits the bill. This soup is a meal in a bowl, satisfying and filling. Perfect for Super Bowl or anytime. Two important tips for this recipe: be sure to purchase good quality sweet Italian sausage, preferably house made from your butcher, and be sure to include the Parmesan rind. Either buy a wedge and cut off the rind yourself or ask your deli guy to cut one for you - they just throw them away when they pre-package grated cheese. I doubt they'll even charge you - mine doesn't.

Minestrone With Sweet Sausage and Tortellini

1/3 cup good quality olive oil
1 large yellow onion, halved and cut into thin slices
4 large carrots, peeled and cut into thick slices
1 small fennel bulb, diced (optional if you don't like fennel)
2 large potatoes, peeled and diced
1 green pepper, cored, seeded, and cut into small chunks
3 medium zucchini, diced
1 1/2 cups fresh green beans, sliced diagonally
2 cups green cabbage, shredded (optional)
5 cups beef or chicken stock (Swanson's brand is good)
5 cups water
1 35 oz. can of Italian plum tomatoes, crushed
2 Tbls. dried oregano
1 Tbls. dried basil
s & p to taste
Outer rind of a 2 inch (doesn't have to be exact) chunk of Parmesan
1 1/2 cups canned cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained
1 package cheese stuffed tortellini - cooked and drained
1 1/2 lbs. sweet Italian sausage, pan fried, drained, and sliced into bite size pieces
Freshly grated Fontina cheese (or Parmesan)

Heat the oil in a large stock pot over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for 10 - 15 minutes. Stir in the carrots and saute for 3 -4 minutes, tossing occasionally
One at a time, add the fennel, potatoes, green pepper, zucchini, and green beans, sauteing each vegetable 2 -3 minutes before adding the next. When all the vegetables have been added to the pot, stir in the cabbage and cook 5 minutes more.
Add the stock, water, tomatoes with their juices, oregano, basil,and salt & pepper to taste. Bury the Parmesan rind in the middle of the soup. Heat just to boiling, cover, reduce heat to a low simmer, and simmer for 2 1/2 to 3 hours. The soup will be very thick (add additional broth if you like - I don't). Ten minutes before serving, stir in the cannellini beans, cooked tortellini, and sausage to heat. Ladle the minestrone into shallow pasta bowls and top with the grated Fontina or Parmesan. Enjoy!

P.S. Feel free to fool around - if you don't like a particular vegetable, substitute another one or increase the amount of one of the vegetables you like the most. As with most recipes, this one is not written in stone - fine tune it to your liking...that's what I did :)

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