5/50 Pasta Fagioli Soup

Ingredients

24 oz Italian chicken sausage, cut into half moons

1 medium yellow onion, chopped

1 ½ t olive oil

1 garlic clove, minced

4 c water

1 15-oz can great northern beans, rinsed and drained

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes, undrained

2 1-cup chicken bouillon cubes

1 c uncooked elbow macaroni

¼ t pepper

½ c fresh spinach leaves, julienned

grated Parmesan cheese to top each serving

Directions

1 In a large saucepan, cook sausage over medium heat; remove from pan and set aside. In the same pan, sauté onion in oil until tender. Add garlic; sauté 1 minute longer.

2 Add water, beans, tomatoes, bouillon, macaroni and pepper; bring to a boil. Cook uncovered until macaroni is tender, about 8 minutes.

3 Reduce heat to low; stir in sausage and spinach. Cook until warmed through, 1–2 minutes. Serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

I like chunky soups, so since I’ve eaten Pasta Fagioli before, I made it a point to bulk up this recipe. Despite my attempt to make this soup into something I would enjoy but still keep to the spirit of the flavor, I didn’t enjoy it. I simply don’t like Italian sausage. The overwhelming black licorice-tasting fennel in all Italian sausage that I’ve tasted is unpleasant to me. Biting into one of those whole fennel seeds has to be one of the worst tasting experiences. Because this soup relies almost entirely on the sausage to carry the flavor, there seemed no substituting for the Italian sausage, so I tried it. And as expected, I still didn’t like the fennel flavor. I also found the use of great northern beans and elbow macaroni odd. They have the same color but very different textures. So as I was eating this soup, each spoonful was slightly different in texture: some with creamy beans; some with chewy macaroni. I would expect and enjoy different textures in a whole meal or in a stew, but in this soup it is unwelcome. To fix this issue, I think the different textures might not be so upsetting if there were a better indicator of it coming, if a different color of bean or macaroni were used in the recipe. But to fix the problem of fennel, I would need to use a different sausage and add Italian seasonings, changing the flavor almost entirely. There was no “simple fix” that I could come up with for the Italian sausage/fennel problem without rewriting the recipe to be a completely different soup! The new no-fennel soup would be more enjoyable for me, but it would stop being Pasta Fagioli. So, I guess until there is an Italian sausage made without fennel, I cannot like this soup no matter how much Parmesan I top it with. But if you like Italian sausage, then please enjoy!

If you’d like to see the original recipes my posts are based on or read Taste of Home’s article that inspired my 50 Soups in 25 Weeks blogging, go to: https://www.tasteofhome.com/collection/soups-to-keep-you-warm-this-fall/.

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