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In the aftermath of Thanksgiving Day, after the leftovers have been exhausted or frozen, we tend to crave light but flavorful soups before the indulgences of the Christmas holiday season arrive. Italian soups are rustic but flavorful fare, no cream-based veloutes as in French soup traditions, but hearty and satisfying. Italian soups originated during lean times in Italy, from a working class who made soups from boiling water and bread. Through the years, seasonal fresh produce, beans and herbs were added and sometimes meats.
A common Italian vegetable soup may be a brodo, a clear broth-based soup, such as a favorite of ours during the winter or hen we are under the weather, Pasta en Brodo. This is simply a filled fresh pasta, such as tortellini, or raviolini, cooked in clear chicken broth, perhaps with some chopped chard or spinach added at the end. Then, there are the zuppas. These are soups that are thickened with bread. Tuscan Ribollita, has a flavorful tomato-based broth, vegetables, beans, greens, and bread for thickening, and we fell in love with it in Florence.
The third type of Italian soup is Minestre or more commonly known as Minestrone, which is a vegetable soup, and may also contain a combination of beans, pasta and meat. Pasta e fagioli was served often in my childhood home, a thickened broth with a variety of beans, and a small pasta. Minestrone was a favorite, as well.
My father’s Stracciatella allA romano, or Roman-style egg drop soup, was legendary! He would cook a whole hen with aromatics and soffrito in order to have a flavorful broth, and then he would add escarole and beaten egg, as well as grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and freshly ground black pepper. Dad served Italian soups as main courses, rather than a primi piatti, or first course, often with an insalata mista–mixed green salad–and a crusty bread and some cheese. I do the same now.
Today’s Italian soup is Minestre con Spinaci e Salsiccia, a simple tomato broth-based soup with that begins with a soffrito to build flavor. Soffrito is a combination of onions, celery, garlic, perhaps fennel and diced carrots, slowly sautéed in olive oil, and then deglazed with wine and the stock or broth for the soup. I chose to utilize a meat, Italian Sausage, vegetables, a bean, and farro rather than pasta.
I also sometimes like to make some Bangers and mash for my family and they love it!
Minestre con Spinaci e Salsiccia (Italian Vegetable Soup with Spinach and Sausage)
Serves 6 main course portions
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 pound mild Italian Sausage, cut into 1 inch rings
- 2 large sweet onions
- 4 fat cloves garlic, minced
- 4 ribs celery, sliced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 28 ounces of crushed tomatoes with basil (I used Muir Glen organic)
- 4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 2 Tablespoons dried Italian blend herbs (I used Savory Spice Cantanzarro blend, a blend of lemon peel, garlic, marjoram, basil, rosemary and thyme)
- 1 an ½ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 4 large carrots, cut into 2 inch chunks
- 1 cup fresh cauliflower florets
- 1 cup fresh broccoli florets
- 2 zucchini cut into ¼ inch thick half-moons
- 1 – 15 ounce can cannellini or pink beans, drained
- 1 cup faro (you can use a small pasta, if you prefer, such as ditalini)
- 10 ounces fresh baby spinach leaves
- chopped fresh parsley
- grated pecorino romano
- Place olive oil and cut up sausage in a cold 5 quart soup pot. Cook over medium-hi heat until the sausage has little pink remaining.
- Add the coarsely chopped onion, minced garlic and cook over medium heat for 3 minutes.
- Add the celery and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add the wine and cook for about 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and stock and beans
- Add the herbs and seasonings.
- Add all vegetables with the exception of the spinach.
- Add the faro or pasta.
Cook over medium heat for 20-30 minutes. The celery should still have a bit of crunch, the vegetables should hold their form, and the faro or pasta should be perfectly cooked and not overdone.
Add the spinach and stir, just for a minute until the spinach wilts.
Serve and garnish with cheese and parsley.
This is a very simple soup with an easy method. The preparation and cooking time totals about 40 minutes. Yet, the soup has a rich flavor, very harmonious and balanced, with no one flavor dominant. The flavors of the vegetables are clear and fresh, the tomato-wine-herb broth mellow with sweetness. The beans add a creamy texture. This is a hearty and very satisfying cool-weather dinner with Italian flair.
This can easily be a vegetarian or vegan meal by eliminating the chicken stock and using a vegetable stock or broth and by eliminating the sausage. Worried about refined carbs or wheat? Then, eliminate the faro or pasta. You can alter the vegetables based on your market day. Chard is very good rather than spinach. This is a versatile minestre recipe–you can tinker with it to suit your palate!
Readers, please share your favorite soup recipes, Italian or not, or other lighter, post-Thanksgiving Day feast dishes. The Comments box follows the post.