Healthy Vegetable Soup Recipe With Cannellini Beans and Chicken Sausage
Healthy and Delicious
This soup is high in fiber, protein, vitamins, and minerals, and it is fairly low in fat and sodium. It also tastes terrific! The recipe makes a big potful and can be made in advance, refrigerated, or frozen in meal-sized portions, then reheated. I suggest serving it with whole-grain bread or rolls for a healthy, light yet satisfying meal. It also makes a tasty, filling, and guilt-free afternoon snack.
An old-fashioned vegetable soup . . . is a more powerful anticarcinogen than any known medicine.— James Duke M.D. (U.S.D.A.)
Making this soup a day ahead allows the flavors to meld and mellow. It's worth the wait! Feel free to substitute your family's favorite vegetables and cheese varieties.
To make this a vegetarian recipe, use vegetable broth and omit the chicken sausage. For a vegan soup, also omit the optional cheese or substitute dairy-free cheese (e.g., Daiya brand) for the Gruyere and Parmesan cheese.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 2 large Vidalia onions (or 4 large sweet onions of another variety)
- 2 cloves elephant garlic or 4 cloves of regular garlic
- 2 large or 3 medium carrots
- 2 large or 3 medium parsnips
- 2 large or 3 medium potatoes (optional)
- 2 large or 3 medium celery stalks with unwilted leaves
- 2 zucchini
- 2 medium-large apples
- 1 large red bell pepper
- 2 (12-oz.) packages (4 links each) of fully cooked chicken sausage (e.g., Aidells or Al Fresco brand)
- 61 to 64 oz. broth of your choice (reduced-sodium or low-sodium broth is recommended)
- 2 or 3 (15-oz.) cans cannellini beans or 4 to 6 cups soaked and cooked dried beans
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro
- Kosher salt (optional) and black pepper
- Block of good quality Gruyere cheese
- Wedge of imported Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (best-quality Parmesan cheese from Italy)
- Pour olive oil into a Dutch oven and turn the heat to medium-low.
- While the oil is heating, cut the onions in half from root to stem and then slice them crosswise as thinly as possible. Stir the onion into the pot until the slices are thinly coated with oil.
- Partially flatten the garlic cloves. Remove the skin, then trim and mince the peeled cloves. Stir the minced garlic in with the onions.
- Scrub the carrots and parsnips under cold running water and trim off the ends. Roll-cut the carrots and parsnips or slice them approximately 1/3" thick. Stir them into the pot and turn up the heat to medium.
- If using potatoes, scrub the skins under cold running water but don't peel them. Cut them into 1/3" cubes and stir them in with the other vegetables.
- Wash and trim the celery stalks, including the leaves. Cut them into medium-thick slices and stir them into the pot.
- Wash and trim the zucchini, cut them into approximately 1/2" dice or 1/2" thick wedges and stir them in.
- Peel and quarter the apples, then trim away the core and seeds. Shred the apples and stir them into the vegetables.
- Dice the red bell peppers and stir them in.
- Slice the fully cooked chicken sausage into 1/3" thick slices and stir them into the pot.
- Reserve half the broth and add the other half to the pot.
- Rinse and drain the cannellini beans several times. Place them in a blender, add the reserved broth, process to a very thick purée and stir it into the soup.
- Stir in the fresh cilantro and turn up the heat to medium-high. Bring the soup just to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes or until the carrots are tender. Season to taste with Kosher salt, if desired, and black pepper. Cover and refrigerate overnight.
- The next day, freeze the soup in meal-size portions and label and date the containers. If desired, reserve some of the soup to eat within the next few days.
- Reheat the soup (after defrosting it if it was frozen) over medium heat or in a microwave. Ladle the hot soup into bowls and serve immediately, with hot, toasted and lightly buttered whole-grain bread, rolls or English muffins, if desired.
- Finely shred a generous pile of Gruyere cheese then Parmigiano Reggiano cheese over each bowl at the table. Have each diner stir the cheeses into the hot soup so they melt.
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Vegetarian and Vegan Recipe Modifications
How to Make the Soup Vegetarian
Use vegetable broth and omit the chicken sausage.
If you wish, you can make up somewhat for the flavor of the omitted chicken sausage by preparing some meatless sausages (such as Morningstar Farms breakfast sausage links) while you are reheating the soup. Cook only enough meatless sausage links for the amount of soup you are serving, then slice them into "coins". After you ladle the soup into the bowls, distribute the sausage slices among the bowls and immediately shred the cheese over the top.
How to Make the Soup Vegan
To make this a vegan soup, simply omit the chicken sausage and the cheese. Another option is to substitute dairy-free vegan cheese for the Gruyere and Parmigiano-Reggiano. Daiya makes extremely good vegan cheese varieties that can be shredded finely, and there are several good recipes for vegan Parmesan cheese substitutes online, including the Vegan Parmesan Cheese Recipe from Madison at Veggieful.com. If you like the taste of nutritional yeast, that's another substitution option for the Parmesan cheese.
Soup's on. Enjoy!
What's your favorite type of soup?
How to Slice the Onions Paper Thin
Cut each peeled onion in half vertically (from root to stem), then slice it crosswise as thinly as possible, using a mandoline slicer, an extremely sharp chef's knife, or a food processor with a fine slicing blade. (You can quarter the onions, if necessary, to make them fit your food processor's feed tube.) I find the slicing attachment on a food processor to be a bit fiddly, and it's hard to slice onions paper-thin.
This is extremely similar to the one we own (which is many years old and no longer available) and has a useful additional feature: An adjustable thickness button that lets you make slices in four different thicknesses, from paper-thin to medium-thick. Like ours, it comes with several inserts that create uniform slices, shreds, julienne, and more. It also includes a food pusher with a safety guard/shield. The blades of a mandoline are razor-sharp, so always spear the food with the prongs of the pusher and hold it by the knob, keeping your fingers safely behind the shield and away from the blades! mandoline slicer
How to Crush Garlic Cloves
- Start by peeling the garlic cloves. To do this, lay a wide chef's knife or cleaver on its flat side on top of a garlic clove, then carefully pound it once or twice with the heel of your hand or the side of your closed fist (thumb facing up). The garlic cloves don't need to be completely smashed, just flattened enough to split and loosen the peel so it's easy to remove.
- Pull off and discard the loosened skin from the smashed garlic cloves, trim the ends and mince.
- Then crush the cloves with a good quality garlic press, or mince and then crush them with a sturdy, sharp chef's knife.
Tip: If you're using very large cloves, give them a single, controlled whack with a meat pounder. Because it's so heavy, you won't need to (and shouldn't) use much force. The weight of the tool does the work for you!
How to Roll-Cut Carrots and Parsnips
Roll-cutting is a technique for cutting carrots, parsnips, Asian eggplant, and other long, narrow vegetables. In addition to making the vegetable pieces more attractive, roll-cutting maximizes the exposed surface area of the vegetable pieces so they will cook faster and more evenly and also absorb more flavor from the cooking sauce or broth. The roll-cutting technique, also called oblique cutting, is used frequently in making Chinese stir-fry dishes.
- Peel the carrots or parsnips (or to preserve as many nutrients as possible, scrub the vegetables with a vegetable brush under cold running water).
- Trim the ends.
- To roll-cut: Start at the wide end of the carrot or parsnip. Hold the knife blade perpendicular as usual, then angle the blade at a 45-degree angle to make a diagonal cut, making sure the blade is straight up and down and not tilted.
- Rotate the vegetable toward you a quarter turn so that the cut edge faces up, then make another diagonal cut straight down.
- Continue to rotate and cut, keeping the pieces fairly even in size.
Video Demonstration: Roll-Cutting Carrots and Other Long, Thin Vegetables
I live on good soup, not on fine words.— Molière
Don't Be Tempted to Leave Out the Shredded Apples!
You won't taste them, but they add a very subtle touch of sweetness that smooths out the flavors of the vegetables. Use a mandoline slicer or a food processor with a fine shredding disk.
A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.— Abraham Maslow
The Easy Way to Seed and Dice a Bell Pepper
Dicing a bell pepper can be a bit unwieldy (and frustrating!) . . . unless you know a few simple tricks that make it a piece of cake. Here's the easiest, most efficient method.
- Thoroughly wash and dry the bell pepper.
- Use a sharp chef's knife to slice off and reserve both ends, exposing the ribs inside.
- Stand the pepper on end and slice straight down through one wall with the tip of the chef's knife.
- Turn the pepper on its side and gently pry the cut edges apart up a bit, then carefully run the blade of the chef's knife along the inside of the pepper's wall, using a slight sawing motion to separate the wall from the whitish ribs, center core and the seeds. If the ribs don't all come off easily or cleanly; just trim them afterward with a sharp paring knife.
- Turn the pepper over (skin side up) and flatten it on the cutting board. This gives you a nice, flat rectangle of trimmed bell pepper that's easy to slice into strips or dice.
- Finally, diced the reserved ends.
I highly recommend using a good-quality low-sodium and/or reduced sodium broth for this soup, especially if you plan to add chicken sausage and/or top it with shredded cheese. I used a combination of low-sodium vegetable broth and reduced-sodium 99% fat-free chicken broth, but you can use all chicken broth, beef broth, vegetable broth, turkey broth, or any combination you prefer, depending on your taste and dietary restrictions. Use vegetable broth for a vegetarian or vegan soup. If you have some homemade stock on hand that's low in sodium, using that instead of commercial broth will further enhance the taste.
How to Substitute Dried Beans for the Canned Beans
You can use soaked and cooked dried cannellini beans (aka white kidney beans) instead of canned beans, if you prefer. Cooking them in a pressure cooker is fastest and easiest. If you don't own a pressure cooker, you'll need to start soaking the beans the night before you want to make the soup.
How to Prepare Dried Cannellini Beans
Yield: 4 cups cooked beans
- Measure 1 1/3 cups of picked-over and rinsed dried beans into a large bowl or food storage container and cover with 8 cups of cold water.
- Cover the bowl or container and leave it on the counter overnight.
- In the morning, the beans should have swelled significantly. Drain and rinse them and transfer them to a large pot.
- Add enough fresh cold water to cover the beans by at least 1 inch.
- Bring the water to a boil, then reduce the heat to a low simmer and cook the beans, uncovered, for approximately 45–90 minutes or until tender, adding more cold water in small amounts if necessary to keep the tops of the beans underwater.
- Drain the beans; then rinse and drain them again several times.
Cheese Prep Tip: Finely Shred (Don't Grate)
Fine shreds of hard cheese melt beautifully when stirred into hot soup, unlike grated hard cheese that tends to sink to the bottom of the bowl in a blob. So, instead of using a regular handheld fine grater with holes, use a Microplane fine grater with rows of razor-sharp, horizontal cutting teeth that create fine, fluffy shreds. I prefer the model, which is all stainless steel and has a rounded handle that is more comfortable to hold while shredding the cheese over the soup bowls at the table. Microplane Professional Series Fine Grater
Note: Please don't use the non-refrigerated canisters of grated cheese! It often contains up to 15% fillers (yuck!). It's also bland and tastes a bit like grated soap . . . especially compared to freshly shredded, imported Parmigiano-Romano! If you think the difference isn't that significant, taste them side-by-side and see for yourself.
I recommend serving this wonderfully filling and healthy soup with toasted and lightly buttered whole-grain bread or English muffins. Food for Life brand Ezekiel 4:9 Sprouted Whole Grain English Muffins are hearty and nutritious as well as tasty.
Questions & Answers
© 2013 Margaret Schindel