Escarole, Fennel, and Fresh Sausage Soup

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It’s a little warm for soup, but I had a (once) lovely head of escarole that spent a little bit too much time on the shelf.  Since I’ve only had it for  2 or 3 days, I’m guessing it traveled a long way.  After rummaging through the fridge, I also found half a head of fennel and lots of onions.  In the freezer, I found several packages of homemade sausage in the freezer that have been winking at me for weeks now.  Okay, months.

So, to rescue the veggies, I decided to make a soup.  Browsing the internet, there are many recipes for soup with escarole.  Some have beans, so do not.  Some have potatoes, some do not.  Some are partially pureed to thicken, so are not.

Not following any one recipe, I decided to utilize what I had, from the fridge (escarole, fennel, and white beans), the freezer (homemade italian sausage), and the garden (leeks and rosemary).

Here’s what we used.  The basic recipe is sausage, onions, cooked beans, water and escarole.  If you just have this, you will have a great soup.

Here’s my expanded version.

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage

  • 1 onion, minced

  • 1/2 head of fennel, diced small

  • 2 cloves garlic, minced

  • one 2 to 3 inch sprig fresh rosemary

  • the greens of one leek, sliced in ribbons

  • 15-ounce can white beans, or 2 cups leftover cooked white (tarbais or cannellini) beans

  • 2 cups diced potatoes, such as yukon or reds

  • 4-8 cups water, chicken stock, vegetable stock, or any combination thereof

  • 1 head escarole, washed well, and sliced into thin ribbons (about 6 to 8 cups)

  • about 2 to 3 cups leftover mashed potatoes (optional thickener)

  • salt and pepper, to taste

  • grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese, to garnish

  • good olive oil, to garnish

  • red pepper, to garnish to taste

In a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pan, heat olive oil over medium heat.  Brown bulk sausage, breaking it up as you would ground beef.  When cooked, transfer to a plate or bowl.

Add the onions or leeks and fennel and cook with a pinch of kosher salt until just tender, about 5 to 10 minutes.

Stir in garlic and rosemary sprigs. Cook, stirring occasionally, 5 minutes.

Add the cooked sausage, drained beans, diced potatoes and water or stock. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes. (At this point, the soup can be made 24 hours in advance, refrigerated.)

Remove and discard rosemary stem and larger rosemary leaves.

If you want a thicker soup, you can puree 1/2 of the beans.  I had some very good leftover buttermilk mashed potatoes, about 3 cups, so I added that instead.  Return soup to a boil.

When the soup returns to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and add the shredded escarole  Simmer about 5 minutes, then turn the burner off or remove from the heat.

Season to taste with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper.

Serve soup garnished with Parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

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