Spring is just around the corner, but winter seems to be lingering still. I thought I’d bid the cold weather farewell with a hearty comforting soup. This is reminiscent of a Pasta e Fagiole soup, but I created a white version using white beans, chicken sausage and herbs. It was topped with a little shredded Parmesan cheese and a garlicky- parsley aioli. Serve with a crusty baguette and a crisp green salad and you’ve got a great and satisfying meal.
Ingredients for the Chicken Sausage:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (or 1.5 lbs. ground chicken)
3 cloves garlic
1 1/2 tbsp. ground sage
1 tsp. ground marjoram
1 tsp. herbs de Provence
3 tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
zest of one lemon
2 tsp. salt
2 tsp. fresh ground pepper.
If you’re using the chicken breasts, grind them up in a food processor until you have a ground consistency. Dump the ground chicken into a bowl and crack in the eggs and blend. Grate the garlic and add it to the bowl. If you’re using the boneless, skinless chicken breasts add in one tbsp. of olive oil to avoid having dry sausage. Next add in the herbs, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. Blend everything well and begin browning the sausage in a non-stick pan with a little olive oil.
Ingredients for the soup:
1 package dry white beans ( I used navy beans but Cannelini or great northern would work well too. I’d use any except Garbanzo beans.)
8 cups water or chicken stock (if using stock make sure to adjust salt to account for the salt already in the stock)
1.5 lbs chicken sausage (recipe listed above)
1 large onion
6 garlic cloves
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 (1lb.) box of short pasta like tubetti, elbow or shells. ( I used shells)
1 lemon (juice)
1 Parmesan rind- optional (I save the rinds of cheese blocks for soups like this, but you can omit this and it won’t make that big a difference, it just adds a little depth)
1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, plus one tbsp. for garnish
2 tbsp shredded Parmesan cheese for garnish
First add your dry beans to a pressure cooker with the water or stock. If you don’t have a pressure cooker or are running low on time, go ahead and use the canned variety. Just add in 2 cans of the beans with their liquid into a stock pot, plus another 3 cups of water or stock. While the beans cook, begin dicing your onion and grating 4 of the garlic cloves. Add the olive oil to a non-stick pan and turn the heat up to medium high. Add in the onions and garlic and cook until they become tender, about 5 minutes. Next add in the sausage and blend with the onions and garlic. Once the beans are cooked, add in the sausage, Parmesan rind, garlic and onions to the stock pot. If the liquid had reduced too much, add more to have more of a soupy consistency, bearing in mind that the liquid will thicken at the end of cooking a bit. Taste for salt and pepper and season to your liking. Squeeze in the lemon juice, and add in the pasta shells. Allow the pasta to cook until it’s al dente. Grate the last two garlic cloves and give the soup a good stir. Lastly add in the parsley and top with the garlic and parsley aioli.
For the Aioli:
4 tbsp. light mayo
2 tbsp. water
1 garlic clove grated
1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 tbsp. finely chopped parsley
Add the mayo and water into a bowl and whisk well. Next grate in the garlic clove and add the lemon juice. Add in the parsley and whisk everything well, making sure to remove any lumps.