Soup, I have come to realize, feeds two very different needs. The first is the need to make soup—a craving that’s strongest for me in late fall, when the weather is sliding slowly into winter. During this early winter onset, other symptoms of mine include proclivities for wool socks, turtleneck sweaters and mugs of steaming hot beverages. In these times, the act of making soup—hearing the flame flick on below the soup pot, slowly coaxing flavor out of a humble mix of ingredients, the feel of the counter against my hip as I lean and stir, lean and stir—is just what the doctor ordered.
The second need that soup feeds is perhaps more obvious: the need to eat the soup. For me, this urge is at its peak on the rainy days of spring, with their damp chill and gloomy horizons. Summer, we know, is around the corner, but it’s not here yet. We’re like a little kid at her birthday party, blowing out the candles, only to realize, with a sinking feeling, that the candles are trick candles: the candles, like winter, will disappear momentarily, only to flare back up before you know it. In my grown-up mind, I want to scream, just give me the damn cake (the summer) already! To tide myself over until it’s really-truly-warm, I like to hunch over a bowl of soup, spooning up brothy bites, letting the steam warm my face.
So soup is two things: it’s a project and it’s a restorative. But here’s the catch: my hunger for soup as a restorative arrives approximately six months after my hunger for soup as a project. By the time late March rolls around, along with its corresponding need to ward off the gloomy weather with soup, I am so over making soup. I’ve had it with slowly simmering pots of chicken stock. I can’t bear the thought of soaking even one more dried legume. I have lost all interest in my trusty ladle. But, still, when the forecast demands umbrellas and wellies, my stomach grumbles for soup. What, oh what, is a girl to do?
Perhaps the situation doesn’t qualify as a great tragedy, but it’s a conundrum nonetheless: I want the soup, but I don’t much want to make it. At times like this, recipes like today’s are my saving grace. This recipe will get you a pot of soup (thick enough to flirt with the category of “stew,” even) full of hearty ingredients (fennel-laced Italian sausage, bright green spinach, firm white beans) in less than fifteen minutes. Yes, you read that right: I said less than 15 minutes. You get soup as restorative without the bother of soup as a project. You can thank me the next time the clouds roll in.
Sausage, White Bean & Spinach Soup
Adapted from Cooking Light
2 links sweet or spicy turkey Italian sausage, casings removed
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup water
1 15-ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1 28-ounce can chopped tomatoes, undrained
2 cups chicken broth
salt, to taste
2 cups baby spinach
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
freshly-grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
Heat oil in a large saucepan. Cook sausage in the oil until browned, stirring to crumble. Add onion and garlic to pan; cook for 2 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup water, beans, tomatoes, and broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Uncover and cook for 3 minutes or until slightly thick. Taste for seasoning and add salt, to taste, if necessary.
Remove from heat, and stir in spinach and basil. Serve with cheese, if desired.