Sweet Sausage, Bean, and Spinach Soup

Nov 12th

An easy, comforting, slightly spicy, delectably savory, hits-the-spot kind of soup. It has meat, grains, veggies and dairy all in one bowl, which is always my favorite kind of meal. Serve with a big ol’ crust of grainy bread and you’ve got a soul-warming dinner.

Maybe you’ve read this blog before and have begun to trust me that if something isn’t easy, I won’t say it is. Maybe you googled sausage and found yourself here. Either way, I swear this is honestly an easy soup. You DO have to chop (though Trader Joes sells a mirapoix bag – carrot, onion, celery all chopped and ready to go), which is the only energy consuming part of the process.  Even though it calls for dried herbs, canned beans, canned tomatoes, and cartons of chicken broth (Swanson’s Organic is my FAVE – best flavor says America’s Test Kitchen), and it still tastes like you’ve been slaving away over the stove for hours.

Broth-based soup is ALWAYS a good idea when you’re watching your weight. Though this soup is definitely healthy, you COULD make it even lighter. Trader Joes sells chicken sausage and the sweet Italian version is just 100 calories per link. Start with one pound of that, chopped, and you’d save calories AND saturated fat. Swapping the macaroni for a whole-wheat variety wouldn’t save you calories but it WOULD increase the fiber, which might mean you eat less overall. To save the cheese calories, add a rind of parmesan cheese when simmering to gain the flavor without the fat.

If making chili has become a weekly tradition for you, consider this. A broth based soup is usually at least HALF the calories of any chili you might make. When it comes to weight loss and management it’s all about the small decisions. Simple swaps make a world of difference – no need to give up sugar, alcohol, fat or gluten. Yesterday was my amazing mommom’s birthday, and though she’s gone her words of wisdom keep popping up. When it came to food, her mantra was “everything in moderation”. She lived for 88 years; I think she’d know a thing or two.

Sweet Sausage, Bean and Spinach Soup

Serves 8

Adapted from Bon Appetit

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. sweet Italian link sausage, casings removed*

1 1/2 c. chopped onion

1 1/2 c. chopped carrot

1 celery stalk (with leaves), chopped

2 medium garlic cloves, minced

1 tbsp. chopped fresh basil (or 1 tsp. dried basil)

1 tsp. dried rosemary

1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes

1/4 tsp. rubbed sage (dried, powdered sage)

1 (14 oz) can diced tomatoes, with juices

1 (15 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

6 c. chicken broth

1 c. elbow macaroni

1 (6 oz) bag baby spinach

1 tsp. balsamic vinegar

1/4 c. grated parmesan (plus more for serving if desired)

1/4 tsp. salt

1/4 tsp. black pepper

*If you can find bulk sausage you will skip this step. To remove casing, slit the top of the sausage, split the thin gross casing, and remove the meat from inside.

1. Heat oil in dutch oven over medium high heat. Add sausage and cook, stirring to break up, until cooked (about 5 minutes).

2. Add onion, carrot, celery, garlic, basil, rosemary, crushed pepper and sage and stir to combine. Saute, stirring occasionally for 8-10 minutes or until veggies are softened.

3. Add beans, tomatoes and broth and stir to combine. Increase heat to high.

4. When soup boils, reduce heat to low and let simmer for 15 minutes. Add macaroni and simmer 10 minutes.

5. Add spinach and stir to combine. Add vinegar, cheese, salt and pepper. Serve, topped with more cheese if desired.

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