I was always pretty spoiled as a kid, having very resourceful parents who could cook up a storm. I never had store-bought soup, beans, or preserves until I moved out after high school. As anyone else who's been this privileged and spoiled will tell you, your first can of of soup or jar of jam is a severely rude awakening. Nobody makes it like mom does. If you're smart, you'll learn to make it like mom does, from scratch. I've pretty much mastered all of those homemade soups that I crave by now - from Pa FvF's chili to Ma FvF's devilishly rich and creamy potato soup. I figured it's time to make my own soup from scratch with no recipe and no help. I wanted something involving cannelini beans, spinach and sweet sausage, and probably some tiny pasta for the Mister. It's a lot like Italian Wedding soup, with the addition of white beans and using straight sausage instead of meatballs. Hence, Tuscan Wedding Soup. Here's what you'll need:
1 lb sweet (or mild or hot, if you prefer) Italian sausage*
2 cups chopped spinach**
1 yellow onion, finely diced
3 cloves minced garlic
1 32 oz carton chicken broth
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp basil
1/2 tsp dried rosemary
1 tbsp salt
1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
2 cups small pasta (I used shells), cooked and drained
*I used links and cut them up, but you could just as easily used bulk and crumble it.
** Use fresh, not frozen. You can thank me later.
Cook your sausages however you normally cook them. I added about 1/4 inch of water to a dutch oven and let them brown for about 15 minutes over medium heat, then sliced'em up. Add a little olive oil to a small stock pot over medium heat, then add your onions and garlic. Once they start to soften, add the chopped spinach and beans, then throw the sausage back in the last few minutes to get it a nice, rustic brown. Plus, the fat will help the veggies cook down. Add all of your chicken broth, then seasonings and give it a good stir. Bring it to a near-boil, then back down to simmer and let it simmer for at least one hour. Add your cooked pasta and let it all come to temperature, then you're all set. Like most soups, the longer you can let it simmer, the better the flavor will be.
I don't mind patting myself on the back here, this was fantastic. Even for all the veggies in it, it got a 9 out of 10 from Mr. FvF - an esteemed list which normally only includes steak and stromboli. I topped it with an asiago-romano-parm blend, but it's absolutely fine on it's own. Also, if I had it to do over, I think I might go with a harder, aged parmesan.