In the 90s there was a series of books written by Jack Canfield and Mark Victor Hansen called “Chicken Soup for the Soul” and no explanation was needed. We all knew that a wonderful soup feeds the body and soul. This soup exceeds that reputation.
Having a passion for food, there are not too many dishes I won’t try and don’t love. Honestly, vegetable soup was never one of my favorites. Most I had tried lacked any real flavor. Until about 10 years ago.
Our family had gone through a particularly difficult event and a dear friend brought a beautiful soup to our home as her way of providing comfort and support. As everyone left our home and headed back to their lives, Emily and I sat quietly at our kitchen table. We were hungry but too exhausted to even think about cooking and neither of us had the desire to face the public and go to a restaurant. Then we remembered the vegetable soup that had been delivered earlier that day. As it began to warm and simmer on the stove, a special aroma filled the air. One spoonful and our souls and spirits were renewed.
Our friend graciously shared her recipe. Through the years, we have blended it and now have this version. The soup, rich with butternut squash, sweet onion, red bell pepper, Swiss chard, cannellini and navy beans along with chicken sausage all simmered together in a chicken stock enhanced with rosemary.
This recipe makes a large batch and gets better by the day. I use two different types of sausage, one of which is usually a tomato-basil chicken sausage, along with a mild Italian chicken sausage. Use your favorite or leave it out entirely. (I live with a meat-lover so there is always plenty of chicken sausage in mine.)
You can use fresh butternut squash, but the organic, frozen butternut squash is wonderful and requires much less labor. For the concentrated chicken stock my “go to” is Better Than Bouillon base. In addition to chicken base they make it in several varieties including beef, poultry and vegetable. Adding it to soup can make a big impact on flavor.
Renew your body and soul!
Autumn Vegetable Soup with Chicken Sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 slices bacon, diced
1-1/2 pounds chicken sausage (about 6 links), casings removed
1 large sweet onion, diced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and diced
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 bunch Swiss chard, stems removed, leaves coarsely chopped*
1 teaspoon kosher salt, or to taste
½ teaspoon freshly ground pepper, or to taste
¼ – ½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary or 2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed (using a mortar and pestle does a perfect job!)
8 cups chicken stock
2 packages cubed frozen butternut squash, 10 ounces each
1 can cannellini beans, 15 ounces, rinsed and drained
1 can navy beans, 15 ounces, rinsed & drained
1 piece Parmesan rind
2 bay leaves
1-2 tablespoons concentrated chicken stock
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the bacon, chicken sausage, onion and bell pepper.
Break up the sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until the sausage is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for an additional five minutes. Stir in the Swiss chard, kosher salt, black pepper, red pepper flakes and minced rosemary. Don’t be alarmed at the amount of Swiss chard in the soup, it will cook down! Continue cooking over medium heat until the Swiss chard is softened.
Quick note: Using a sharp knife, cut along either side and remove the entire stem from the Swiss chard.
Add 6 cups of the chicken stock, one package of the butternut squash, cannellini beans, navy beans, Parmesan rind, bay leaves and 1 tablespoon concentrated chicken stock. Partially cover the stockpot and cook for 30 minutes.
Combine ¼ cup flour with the remaining 2 cups cold chicken stock, mixing well making sure to dissolve any lumps. Slowly add to soup to “bind” ingredients and simmer on medium low for an additional 20-30 minutes. Add the remaining package of butternut squash and cook until warmed through.