Rush Hour

Usually soup in summer doesn't appeal to me, but when the soup in question leaves me thinking of warm summer nights in the Mediterranean, I find it difficult to complain. This great soup is ready in minutes and a perfect quick summer meal. Add some crusty bread drizzled with olive oil, some grated cheese and a cool glass of wine and you will be set for dinner and your own little Italian vacation.

You can use any mix of beans in this soup, but I'm rather fond of the mixture suggested here. Also, if pancetta is either not available or out of your price range, substitute bacon. I like spinach in it for a lighter feel and kale for something a bit heartier. I'm also very fond of diced fire-roasted tomatoes for a little extra flavor and texture. Again, this is one of those highly tweakable recipes. Enjoy!

Tuscan Sausage Soup

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling on bread
  • 1/2 pound diced pancetta
  • 2 cups diced yellow onions
  • 1 cup diced celery
  • 1 cup diced carrots
  • 4 cloves garlic, sliced
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
  • 1 (14-ounce) can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14-ounce) can chick peas, drained and rinsed
  • 2 quarts chicken stock, plus extra water if needed
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 3 sprigs thyme
  • 1 sprig oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon red chili flakes
  • 2 c. chopped kale, spinach or other dark, leafy greens
  • 1 loaf Italian peasant bread, cut into thick slices
  • Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated, for serving

In a large soup pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the pancetta, rendering the fat and cooking until slightly crispy about 3 minutes. Sauté the onion, celery, carrot and garlic for 3 to 4 minutes. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste. Add the diced tomatoes, the drained kidney beans, cannellini beans, chick peas, and the chicken stock. Using kitchen twine, tie the herbs and the bay leaf into a bundle and add to the pot. Season with the red chili flakes, salt and pepper. Cook for 15 to 20 minutes, then add the kale. Continue cooking until the beans are completely tender.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Drizzle olive oil over the slices of peasant bread, season with a little salt and pepper and toast in the oven. Serve the soup in large bowls with grated Parmesan and a slice of toast.

  • Yields: 4 quarts
  • Preparation Time: 30 minutes