I must say that I have been burned out on minestrone lately even though it is one of my favorite soups. Truth is, my wife always yells Minestrone! whenever I ask if we want soup this week and if so what kind. I'm about as tired of it as she is tired of my lentil soup. This minestrone, though, was a nice variation of a traditional minestrone. The soup base is less tomatoey, and an Italian dish that uses herbs other than oregano and basil is always a refreshing change of pace. This is the first minestrone that I've ever had that uses meat, a nice sweet Italian turkey sausage adds a welcome texture and fennel flavor that accentuates the heartiness of the soup.
I started out by simmering 40 oz of chicken broth (5 cups) with 4 cloves of garlic smashed and added to the pot. Give these a good simmer for about 15 minutes and let the garlic hang out.
At this point get a pot of water boiling for about 4 oz of rigatoni. Cook the pasta for only about 6 minutes so it's very al dente. Drain, and save pasta for later. Use small rigatoni if you can find it.
In my dutch oven, which is going to be my main pot for making the soup, I'm heating 1/4 cup of vegetable oil over medium heat with teaspoons of both rosemary and rubbed sage. Let the oil heat up nice and get infused with the herbs for a few minutes. You could use olive oil; I only use vegetable oil because olive oil doesn't agree with me.
While my pots are going I've sliced 2 carrots, 2 celery, an onion, and 2 garlic cloves.
When the oil is sufficiently heated, cook the chopped vegetables in the oil for a few minutes until they're softened. When they're finished, empty the contents of the dutch oven into a bowl or plate on the side. Reserve about a tablespoon of oil in the dutch oven to brown the sausage.
Here I've removed the casings from 2 sweet Italian turkey sausages and increased the heat on the burner to a medium high to brown it.
After the sausage has been browned, added the vegetables and oil back into the pot and stir together.
Add 14 oz can diced tomatoes, drained. Add 14 oz can cannellini, drained. Add about a 1/4 cup fresh parsley, about a teaspoon of black pepper, a bay leaf, and the juice from half a lemon.
Incorporate all of the ingredients.
Add the chicken broth ( I left the garlic in). Let this simmer for about 15 minutes.
While the soup is cooking, I sliced a baguette (diagonally), spread with a little butter, and topped with some Parmesan cheese. These go under a broiler.
After about 15 minutes, the soup has reduced a little and the flavors marry. The aroma should be getting some attention if there are others in your house.
Add the reserved rigatoni to finish cooking for a couple of minutes. This pasta proved to be too big a bite for this soup, so we had to manually cut the pasta in half as we took bites of it. If you can find a small or half-sized rigatoni, it would work much better.
The bread is ready and pulled from the broiler. Perhaps a bit over-done in some spots.
The soup was excellent. I have no complaints or bad criticisms about it except that it tasted even better to me the next day because the flavors had a chance to combine. I especially liked the sausage and herbal flavors of the broth. And, as always, I really enjoyed the carrots. There's something about the sweet crunchiness of carrots in soup.