Monday, September 28, 2009

Houseguests for lunch and a secret to making good soup

As you know from my previous post, it rained the entire weekend our house guests (my husband’s brother and his wife) were visiting. There’s nothing better for lunch on a rainy day than a good bowl of soup followed by a salad and perhaps a nap. Since our guests had an appointment to look at a house that’s for sale in the afternoon, we decided to save the nap for later and visit a local winery a few minutes away from the property they’re seeing with the realtor.

I believe I’ve found one of the secrets to making a really good soup. It’s how you sauté the vegetables. My mother used to throw the vegetables in without browning them first. While there’s nothing wrong with this and it does save a bit of time, if you brown the vegetables first your soup will have a much richer flavor. The second secret is to add the herbs and a little bit of tomato paste to the vegetables at the end of the browning stage. Here’s what I do. I start the vegetables on high heat, then quickly switch to low, season with salt and pepper, and cook them slowly until they are nice and brown taking care that they not burn. Then I add the herbs I’m using (thyme and fresh rosemary are my favorites) and a little tomato paste and cook the vegetables for a few more minutes until the tomato paste is blended in and begins to brown.

I adapted this bean soup from Pam Anderson’s Perfect Recipes for Having People Over. The mushrooms were my idea and I like using both the cremini and white button ones. You could easily leave out the prosciutto and sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken used here and have a meal perfectly suited for a vegetarian guest.

White Beans & Sausage Soup
Adapted from Perfect Recipes for Having People Over by Pam Anderson
Printable recipe

Olive oil
¾ pound of mild Italian sausage (or up to 1 ½ pounds as in the original recipe)
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
2 medium carrots, peeled & cut into medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, cut into medium dice
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
8 ounces sliced white button mushrooms
8 ounces sliced cremini (baby bella) mushrooms
1 quart chicken broth
3 16-ounce cans cannelloni or great northern white beans
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

Remove sausage from its casings, crumble the meat (discard casings) and sauté in a ten inch non-stick skillet in a tiny bit of olive oil until nicely browned and fully cooked. Set sausage aside and wipe out the skillet.

Add about two tablespoons of olive oil to the skillet and sauté the prosciutto, onions, carrots and celery over high heat about three or four minutes until they begin to soften. Season with salt and pepper, turn the heat to low and continue to sauté until they are nicely browned, about ten minutes. Add the thyme, rosemary and tomato paste and cook for a couple of minutes, then remove the vegetables and set aside with the sausage.

Sauté the mushrooms in olive oil until nicely browned, seasoning with salt and pepper about half way through. Remove the mushrooms and set aside with the sausage and vegetables.

Smash the beans from one can with a fork, then add it and the remaining whole beans with their liquid to a soup pot along with the broth, vegetables, mushrooms and sausage. Cover, bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, partially covered, to blend the flavors, about 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for 10 minutes for flavors to develop. Return soup to a simmer and serve. Can be made ahead and frozen. Before serving, sprinkle each person’s bowl with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. Makes eight servings.

Spinach salad with oranges and blue cheese

Make lemony vinaigrette by mixing together one part fresh lemon juice to three parts extra virgin olive oil and a dash of Tabasco in a jar with a tight fitting lid and shake well. Toss fresh baby spinach with the vinaigrette and top with fresh orange segments and blue cheese crumbles. Avoid buying pre-crumbled cheese; in my opinion it is dry and crumbling your own is well worth the effort.

This is the property they saw. One is of the pond in the summer and the other is of the barn after a fresh snowfall in the winter. As you can see the grounds were beautiful, but the house was on two levels and all of the rooms were extremely tiny. My husband and I have remodeled a dozen or so houses over the years and this one would be a major challenge.

Join us next time as we visit a local winery, Crane Creek Vineyards in nearby Young Harris, Georgia, and celebrate Pink Saturday.


  1. Sam,
    I am coming down with a cold, and guess what I made tonight????
    White Bean Soup w/ pan friend salami!
    Great minds think alike, and yes, I always brown my veggies first, and I try and use homemade chicken stock when I can.
    It's soup season again!

  2. What a great tip with the veggies and tomato paste. Ill remember that next time I am making soup!!

    Yours sounds delicious.. Gorgeous shot of the barn in winter.

  3. Sam, great idea on the veggies! I will try it. We have a soup day coming up at work next week. This sounds just right!

  4. i love the idea of smashing some beans and keeping some whole... it adds such nice texture to the soup. yum!!

  5. Umm! I know about browning the veggies but the tomato past tip in new to me. Sounds good.

    I generally use chicken broth but my daughter-out-law makes a roasted vegetable broth from the new Gourmet cookbook that is Magnificent!

  6. I find that browning the vegetables and a good homemade chicken broth makes a big difference when you prepare a soup. This recipe looks delicious.

  7. Hi Sam,

    This is my first visit to your lovely blog. Just wanted to say thanks for the book recommendation - my mother has a birthday coming up Oct 31. We both loved the Julie & Julia movie and she's since read that book and started My Life in France and the two cookbooks. She made boeuf bourguinonne (? I'm not even going to try to spell that right!) this weekend. It was delicious. I know she'll love this book as well.

    Hope you are having a wonderful Tuesday!


  8. I love your white bean soup recipe, I will make it if it ever gets cooler here, it is so hot still!

  9. great soup and good tips for making it yummy, oh and the nap thing sounds goood!!

  10. agreed. nothing like a good soup on a wet day. love that salad too!

  11. What a perfect meal for a rainy day. I appreciate your tips for making super soups, they really do work well. I hope you enjoyed the winery tour and are having a wonderful day today.

  12. Thanks for the wonderful tip about the veggies and the tomato paste. i can't wait to try this out! Both the soupa and the salad sound fantastic.

  13. I am soooo copying everything about this soup!

  14. This recipe makes me crave soup. Tonight is the first evening, that we have turned the a/c off to enjoy the pleasant air. As soon as it turns cooler, my attention turns to hearty soups. This recipe that you shared is perfect.

  15. Okay, here's the thing. Grumpy Greg also known as inquisitive Greg needs to know. North Carolinian WINE? Really?? You must post about this because I do indeed doubt. I need facts, I want proof! But what do I know.. GREG

  16. I just love bean soup. It was a favorite when I was a child (and still is.) I can remember sitting at the kitchen table on cold afternoons eating the bean soup my mom made for me. This recipe sounds delicious; I'm adding it to my file. :)

  17. The soup sounds awesome with prosciutto and sausage! I find that for me, although soup is easy to make, it's not easy to serve for many guests but it's because I don't have enough bowls :)

  18. You have definitely worked out the secret...I also believe in browning the veggies first....and yes, I add herbs in the beginning and at the end. The soup looks so wholesome!!!

  19. This has come at precisely the perfect moment. My husband and I have been discussing soups this week and how we should only eat soup for dinner in the winter -- maybe not every day, but three or four nights.

    How delicious this looks and sounds.

    I KNEW you would be an adventurous eater -- all great cooks are I think. I'm on my way to bed now (late over here) but I want to discuss my food aversions a little more with you. . ,

  20. I love white bean soup, as a matter of fact I plan to make when the weather get a little colder :-) By the way, your spinach salad with mandarin orange looks fantastic.

  21. Great soup idea Sam. We really had the rain last week and now it is cold in the morning and evening. Definitely soup weather. I think I will make a beef soup today.

  22. Sam, truly a great tip! Our culinary department won a vegetarian chili contest, and that was our secret aimo! I am ready for a project, meaning new digs, and will be looking soon, we rent for now...

    I have some catching up to do on here I just saw...

  23. oooooooooooooooooooooo YUM !!!!!

  24. I have not started doing soups yet .. for me soup spells winter ... In France, you often brown the vegetables before adding the stock.. yes, it does make a difference!

  25. I am sick too and would lovvee some of this soup!

  26. totally agree. There is nothing better on a rainy day then a hearty bowl of soup, and good bread I should add.
    Thanks for the tip on making a good soup. It's a great base of knowledge to have so I can whip up my own soup creation!

  27. White bean soup! My favorite, and this one looks fantastic. So does the salad. Great tip of browing veggies, thanks. You might want to submit this posting to Souper Sundays with Deb at Kahakai Kitchen. Her readers would love it!

  28. Sam,
    With this chilly, rain day, making soup would be so good. Thanks for the recipe. It sounds delicious. I always enjoy visiting your blog.

  29. Thank you for sharing your soup secrets, looks delicious. yum

  30. Sam, this soup is SOOOOO Tuscan! Beans, herbs, veggies--it's super. Bennissimo!

  31. Sam, this is the soup for me. It has all my favorite. We have a heary soup once a week and I make extra for when hunger pangs come. This has to be my soup for this week. Thanks so much for posting it.

  32. Your soup looks great and thanks for the tips! I just made a quick bean and bacon using up leftover bacon jam... felt it was missing something, might add a touch of tomato paste:@)


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