This is a great soup…simple yet hearty and delicious. I did a few things differently but nothing that would alter the recipe too much. For starters, I used bulk Italian sausage instead of the links. If using bulk sausage, just break it into pieces with a spatula as it browns in the pan. I used a few more carrots than the recipe called for, added 1 15-oz. can diced tomatoes, and used low-salt chicken broth (Italian sausage and prosciutto can be salty depending on the brand). After letting the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, I added about 3 cups of chopped kale and let it cook for a few minutes until it wilted. You can save a little money by omitting the prosciutto…the soup will still be good without it. If making the soup ahead of time, add the kale (if using) when reheating and let it cook for several minutes before serving; this way the kale should be bright green when you dish up the soup. Adjust seasonings if needed and serve the soup sprinkled with a little parmesan cheese if you like.
Sausage & White Bean Soup
-from Perfect Recipes for Having People Over by Pam Anderson
“Most of us enjoy a good pot of ham and bean soup, but often we don’t have a ham bone on hand or the time to soak and simmer dried beans. Minced prosciutto instantly transforms chicken broth into a ham-flavored soup base. Italian sausage reinforces the pork flavor and makes the soup satisfying and substantial. Canned beans work as well as dried ones, and mashing some of them thickens the soup and gives it body.
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sweet or hot Italian sausage
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto ham, minced
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, cut into medium dice
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 quart chicken broth
3 cans (16 ounces each) great northern or other white beans, undrained
Heat oil in a large deep pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add sausages and cook, turning once or twice, until well-browned on all sides, about 5 minutes (sausage will not be fully cooked). Remove with a slotted spoon; when cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.
Meanwhile, add prosciutto, onions, carrots, celery and thyme to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are well browned, 8 to 10 minutes.
Add broth and sausage. Smash 1 can of beans with a fork, then add to soup with remaining beans. Cover, and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, to blend flavors, 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes to let flavors develop.
Return soup to a simmer and serve.
Make-ahead Tip: The cooled soup can be refrigerated up to 3 days.
How can I vary it? Substitute smoked cooked sausage: kielbasa or chorizo. Other varieties of canned beans can be substituted as well.