White Bean and Smoked Sausage Soup

From James Sapyta
Makes 3 quarts, enough for 2 batches of finished soup

Oh my gosh I am so very behind getting these recipes out – this one is from March 23! Luckily, it’s still soup weather here in Chicago, so there’s still time to dig into this hearty concoction. James borrowed the recipe from Lidia Bastianich’s Lidia’s Family Table.

Ingredients

For the beans:

1 pound (about 2 1/2 cups) dry cannellini or other small dried white beans, soaked overnight or quick soaked
4 quarts cold water, plus more if needed
3 bay leaves
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons salt, plus more if needed

For the garlicky soffritto:

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
6 big garlic cloves, sliced
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes

For the finished soup, 1,2, or all of the following:

1 pound smoked sausage, choppped up
1/2 pound trimmed chicory or endive
2 small zucchinis, cut into matchsticks

Preparation
Drain the soaked beans and put them in the pot with the water, bay leaves, and olive oil. Cover the pot and bring to a boil over high heat stirring occasionally. When the water is at a full boil, set the cover ajar, adjust the heat to maintain a steady gentle boil, and cook for an hour more, until the beans are tender.

Stir in the salt, uncover, and continue cooking at a bubbling boil for another hour or more, until the beans and broth have reduced to 3 quarts. Lower the heat as the liquid evapoates and the soup base thickens, stirring now and then to prevent scorching.

When the soup base is sufficiently reduced, make the soffritto.  Heat the olive oil and the sliced garlic in a skillet over medium heat for 2 minutes or so, shaking the pan now and then, until the slices are sizzling.  Drop in the red pepper flakes, stir with the garlic, and cook another minute, or until the garlic is just starting to color.

From the soup pot, ladle out a cup of the simmering bean broth and pour it into the skillet.  Let it sizzle and start to boil, shake and stir up the soffritto, and cook it for a couple of minutes in the broth.  Then pour it all back into the bean pot, scraping in every bit of the soffritto, or just rinse the skillet out with more broth.  Simmer the soup base for another 5 minutes with the soffritto, then remove from the heat.

The base is ready for a finished soup now, or you can let the whole pot cool, pick out the bay leaves, and keep the soup refrigerated for 3 to 4 days or freeze, in filled and tightly sealed containers, for 4 to 6 monthes.

To complete the soup add smoked sausage and heat through. Or, add 1/2 pound trimmed chicory or endive chopped in 2-3 inch pieces. Cook covered for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the leaves are tender and wilted. You can also add two small zucchinis, cut in matchsticks (about 3 cups), if you like.

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