Well, I made another soup. Another really good and satisfying soup, which may take a little while to make but you will be oh-so-glad you did. I had not made it in a while, and today was just the day for it.
The inspiration to dig out my recipe for cannellini (white Tuscan beans) soup came from a gorgeous cover image of an old Bon Appetit magazine (February 2006 issue) I found while sorting stuff out for the move. Good food photos make your mouth water, and you either want to devour the food, or make it – and then devour it!
The recipe I used to make at the restaurant was pretty similar. The beans are cooked in the same way, and the soup basics are the same. But I liked the idea in Bon Appetit to blend only part of the soup, and of course the sausage. Then, while at the grocery store, I saw some fresh mushrooms, which I think are a perfect match to sausage, and I just had to pick some up. The combination works beautifully, turning the soup into an almost complete meal.
So here goes one of the most delicious, comforting soups you will ever taste, perfect for any winter night, but especially if you are among those snowed-in by the storm on the East Coast.
CANNELLINI BEAN SOUP WITH MUSHROOMS, SAUSAGE & THYME
yields about 10 portions
– 454 gr (or 1 lb.) dried cannellini or small white beans
– 2 lt. & 400 ml. (10 cups) water
– extra-virgin olive oil
– 6 garlic cloves, peeled
– 1 large fresh rosemary sprig
– 1 bay leaf
– 1 large onion, chopped
– 3 medium/large carrots, chopped
– 1 large celery stalk, chopped
– 2 Tablespoons fresh thyme leaves + extra for garnish
– 1 lt. & 200 ml (5 cups) hot vegetable broth – if you are purchasing it already made, I find the 365 Whole Foods brand to be one of the best (so far)
– 900 gr. (2 lbs.) fresh sausage of your choice – vegetarians and vegans can omit the sausage and the soup will still be delicious
– 680 gr. (1.5 lbs.) flavorful mushrooms, cleaned & sliced – the best are of course Porcini, but since those are not available in Hawai’i, I like to use the local Hamakua mushrooms; chanterelles are also very good if you like, or a mix of various ones; I tend to avoid the regular cremini or button mushrooms as I find them boring
– 950 ml. (4 cups) reserved liquid which you will get from cooking the beans
– coarse sea salt
– fine sea salt
– freshly ground black pepper
– 120 ml. (1/2 cup) half and half (a combination of half whole milk & half whipping cream for those of you not in the U.S.) – the cream is only a little compared to the volume of the soup, but it is optional, and vegans can omit it without the soup losing any deliciousness
1. Soak the beans in cold water overnight. Sweet dreams!
2. Drain the beans and give them a quick rinse. Place a large soup pot on the stove and add 3 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, 2 garlic cloves smashed with the side of the knife blade, the rosemary sprig, bay leaf and the beans. Add the 10 (ten) cups of water and about 1 scant handful of coarse sea salt. Bring to a boil covered with a lid, then lower the heat and let simmer, with the lid on but slightly open on one side to let the steam out, until the beans are tender (about 1 hour).
Drain the beans reserving the cooking liquid (it will be about 4 cups). Discard the rosemary sprig and the bay leaf.
You can do the soup vegetable prepping and chopping while the beans are cooking. And you also have enough time to wash and slice the mushrooms, as well as heating up the broth you will need.
3. In another large soup pot (or the same one, washed and dried, like I do) heat 3 more Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil with three chopped garlic cloves (or mashed with a garlic masher) and 1 Tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves. Add the chopped onion, celery and carrot combo, season with salt and pepper, stir and let cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the hot vegetable broth and the 4 cups of reserved cooking liquid from the beans and simmer for about 10-15 minutes. Add the cooked beans and simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.
4. Did you slice the mushrooms? Excellent! Now heat 2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil in a large sauté pan and add 2 chopped garlic cloves. When the garlic starts sizzling, add the sliced mushrooms, season with salt and pepper, flip (or stir), cover and reduce the heat. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, till the mushrooms are translucent. Add 1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves, test for salt and add if necessary, and continue cooking uncovered – stirring occasionally – until all the juices have evaporated and the mushrooms have a golden color and are ever so slightly crisp around the edges. Turn off the heat and set aside.
5. If you have room on the stove, while the soup and mushrooms cook you can also cook the sausage. Otherwise you can do it once the mushroom pan is out of the way. Squeeze the sausage out of its casing with your hands and fingers while breaking off small, bite-size lumps into a medium-large stock pot. The high edges of the stock pot will avoid all the grease spraying from the cooking sausage. Put it on the stove and heat to medium heat. Cook stirring regularly until the little balls are cooked through and nicely crisped around the edges – a good 15 minutes or more. There is no need to season the sausage. Also, the sausage lumps will tend to stick despite the fat being released, but that is what will give the nice bit of crunch. Once cooked, turn off the heat and set aside.
6. Back to the bean soup. Before adding the sausage and mushrooms, remove about half the soup from the pot an place it in a bowl. Using an immersion blender, blend the soup in the bowl until creamy and smooth, than pour it back into the pot. Add the sautéed mushrooms and the sausage (discard the grease from the cooked sausage). If you are ready to serve the soup, you can add the half and half as well, and reheat slightly as needed. If not, wait on the half and half addition until ready to serve.
Serving: scoop out the soup into bowls, drizzle lightly with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle it with fresh thyme leaves. You can serve it with some nice, crusty bread (or even corn bread) if you like, though the soup is so filling that bread might be a bit much. That will be up to how hungry you are, though consider you might want a second helping of soup.
If you are not going to serve it right away, let it cool to room temperature and then store it covered in the refrigerator in appropriate containers for up to 4-5 days. I have never frozen this soup, but I am sure it will freeze fine, for up to three months.
To reheat: place the desired amount in an appropriately sized pot and heat gently until it reaches simmering point, then turn off the heat. Do not re-boil the soup. Add an appropriate amount of half & half, stir and serve as described above.
As mentioned earlier, this soup is also excellent in its vegetarian version without the sausage. All the herbs and mushrooms make for a scrumptious vegetarian soup.
TIP for washing the sausage cooking pot: add 2-3 cups of hot water to the empty and greasy pot and bring to a boil. Let the water simmer for a minute or two, then turn off the heat and set aside. Once cooled, you will be able to wash it easily, and all the residues stuck on the bottom will come off without scrubbing.
Other delicious soup recipes you will enjoy: