It’s fitting that my first post of the year is a soup recipe, and this white bean and sausage soup is one of my favorites. I’ve gushed over soup before and I’ll probably do it again. I make one, sometimes two a week because I just love soup. There’s nothing better on a cold winter evening than a delicious broth filled with tender greens, hearty white beans and savory sausage.
Note: when I say “cold” I mean a January 65 degree low in Miami and I’m still in flip flops. That’s all the cold we get in the winter. Don’t hate me.
Did you know January is national soup month here in the good old US of A? It’s the perfect time to bring out the big soup pot with this is a star of a soup. White bean and sausage soup is a comforting, home-cooked meal, but it’s also elegant. A soups like this is deceptively easy to make, only requiring some chopping, a bit of a sauté and a little time on the stove. The result is a hearty, healthy and satisfying meal for the whole family. Serve with warm, crusty bread and a glass of wine, while you imagine you are in Italy. (This Italy fantasy passes through my head every time.)
Ok, I’m finished gushing. Happy new year everyone and may there be more soup in your future.
Serving Size: 6 servings (main course)
Fill a large pot with water and add the dried beans. Bring to a boil and cook for 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow the beans to sit in the water for 1 hour. Drain and rinse beans.
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add onions and cook until soft, but not brown, about 8 minutes. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add beans, chicken broth, wine, cheese rind, salt, pepper, bay leaf and rosemary to the pot. Bring to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat for 50 minutes.
Brown the sausage in a skillet and drain on paper towels. Add the carrots and sausage to the pot. If you are using kale, add it to the pot now. Cook another 15 minutes. If you are using spinach or Swiss chard, add to the pot before serving, stirring until wilted and tender. Taste and season with salt and pepper before serving.
This comforting pasta recipe with sausage, butternut squash, spinach and mascarpone cheese was created after a recent trip to visit family for Thanksgiving. The dish hit the spot after arriving home to an empty house (and refrigerator) the night before. Our anticipated 5-hour drive home stretched to 9 hours due to accidents on the turnpike. My 1-year-old son was too little to understand why he was strapped to a chair for so long, so much of our time was spent soothing and distracting him. We finally got home in the middle of the night, and dragged ourselves into bed.
After such a stressful night, we were happy to have a day to relax. But what was there to eat? I scoured my freezer and pantry and found the ingredients for this delicious recipe. I know most people don’t keep a tub of mascarpone cheese in the freezer, but I do. I like to freeze anything that may spoil when we go on a trip. Deli meats, cheeses (sliced and soft), fresh vegetables and leftovers all get frozen. The meats and cheeses defrost just fine, and the vegetables (like whole tomatoes) get tossed into a pasta sauce.
For this recipe, I was lucky to have a fresh, organic butternut squash. Add to that a pack of frozen spinach, Italian turkey sausage and cheese from the freezer. Then I found some pine nuts and pasta from the pantry and I was good to go.
I love the combination of flavors and textures in this pasta recipe. You get the slightly sweet, roasted butternut squash, then the savory spicy sausage. Crunchy pine nuts are the perfect counter to the creamy pasta and spinach. It just all works.
If you happen to have fresh spinach instead of frozen, please go ahead and us it. If you don’t have spinach, a good substitute is Swiss chard or broccoli rabe. Use your favorite type of sausage, preferably spicy or sweet Italian. I used spicy Italian turkey sausage.
Preheat oven to 425° F/220° C
Pour some of the oil on a baking sheet lined with foil. Add the squash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat. Cook for 35-40 minutes, until the squash is soft and nicely browned. Remove from the oven and set aside.
While the squash is baking, heat a skillet and 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook for 8 minutes over medium heat. Add the garlic and stir. Add the spinach and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.
Bring the pasta water to a boil. Season the water with salt and cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 1-2 cups of the pasta water to make the sauce.
Pour the hot pasta into a large pot or bowl. Add the mascarpone cheese and 1 cup of the pasta water (add more if necessary to thin the sauce). Allow the cheese to melt and toss. Add the squash, spinach mixture and pine nuts. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Serve with Parmesan cheese.
I’m revisiting panna cotta for the Fall season with this festive nutmeg & yogurt panna cotta with cranberry coulis. I love panna cotta because it is so light. It’s easy to make too. It requires only a few minutes to prepare and the yogurt in this dish is barely heated, keeping its probiotic benefits. I’ve been buying organic yogurt from a local farm that is made with full cream, unpasteurized milk. This stuff is amazingly good, so I had to find a great dessert to use it in. Organic plain Greek yogurt is a good alternative. It’s creamier than regular yogurt and has much more flavor.
This light and tangy dessert is simple to make with dazzling results. Perfect for a Thanksgiving, Christmas (or any holiday) feast, you can make the custard and coulis ahead of time. Pour the panna cotta into dessert glasses and top with the bright red sauce or flip them out onto plates. The nutmeg in the panna cotta is reminiscent of eggnog without the heavy “egginess”, and the cranberry sauce adds the perfect amount of acidity. You’ll find yourself gobbling it up faster than you realize.
I wish I had thought to pour these into little dessert glasses to show you, but these photos will have to do! I’ll add some more when I make this recipe again. Enjoy!
Serving Size: 6 servings
Yogurt panna cotta recipe adapted from Kate Neumann’s Greek yogurt panna cotta with honey-glazed apricots
Using a small bowl, sprinkle the gelatin over the water and quickly mix. Let it bloom for 5 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the cream, sugar, vanilla extract and nutmeg in a small saucepan until simmering. Remove the pan from the heat and add the gelatin mixture, stirring until it melts.
Whisk the yogurt in a bowl until completely smooth. Add the cream mixture to the yogurt gradually until combined. Pour into small ramekins or serving glass until set, about 3 hours.
In a saucepan, combine cranberries, sugar, orange zest, orange juice, apple, cinnamon stick and water. Bring to a simmer over medium heat. Reduce heat to low. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes, until the cranberries pop and the apple is soft. Remove cinnamon stick.
Using a wire mesh sieve or strainer, press the sauce through, using the back of a spoon. Discard the remaining solid pieces. Chill before serving.