Colleen and I both love soups, but we differ just a bit on when a soup crosses the line from a side dish to an entree. When she first showed me the Skinny Taste recipe for a crock pot minestrone soup, I looked at the ingredient list, nodded, and said, “that looks like a lovely side for an actual meal.” She looked at me with her traditional pained expression when I deny a soup or salad as an entree, knowing what was coming next—”But if we were to add some meat to the soup, it might then make a mighty tasty main dish!”
She went back to her computer and looked for some meaty minestrones, and after doing some research, came up with a way to add some meat (substance) to the soup, and still keep it healthy and low fat: Spicy Turkey Italian Sausage.
We have experimented with turkey a few times as a lower fat alternative to other meats. Ground turkey works great in our turkey larb dish, but turkey bacon was an abomination when we tried it as a bacon substitute. We’ve found Turkey Italian Sausage actually works really well as a substitute for regular Italian Sausage, especially in a recipe (it is merely adequate as an Italian Sausage Sandwich), and this one is no different.
In the end, not only did the spicy turkey Italian sausage make it hearty enough for me to count as a main course, but we both agreed that the flavor it added to the soup itself added a great deal to its awesomeness.
It is a crock pot soup, but really isn’t quite as quick and easy as most of our crock pot recipes. It requires some significant prep in the morning (or the night before), and then needs a few more steps and another hour or so in the evening before you can eat it. Probably best on a weekend when you might have a little more time to invest in the morning, but we did it as a weekday dish both times, and just got up an extra 30 minutes or so early to get everything started.
- 4 links turkey Italian sausage
- ½ large onion (maybe a whole small or medium onion), chopped
- 1 cup carrots (about 2 carrots), chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
- 1 (15 oz) can white (cannelini or navy) beans, drained and rinsed
- 3 cups fat free chicken broth
- 1 oz chunk “good Parmesan cheese rind” (original recipe calls for this–we have never used it)
- 1 fresh rosemary sprig
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 tbsp chopped fresh basil
- ¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
- Salt and fresh ground pepper
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped
- 2 cups chopped fresh (or frozen and defrosted) spinach
- 2 cups cooked small pasta (farfalle, shells, elbows, or something similar)
- Parmesan cheese to top (extra WW points to taste…)
- Remove sausage from casings (or use bulk sausage), brown and break into small pieces over medium high in a skillet.
- Rinse and drain beans. Puree beans with 1 cup broth in a blender, or with hand held immersion blender in the crock pot itself (that’s what I do).
- In crock pot, combine pureed beans, cooked sausage, broth, tomatoes, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, parmesan rind (if used), salt, and pepper.
- Cover and cook on low for 6-8 hours.
- minutes before ready to eat, add zucchini and spinach. Cover and cook 30 more minutes.
- Add cooked pasta, cook 10 minutes more.
- Remove bay leaves, rosemary sprig, and parmesan rind (if you bothered), and season to taste with salt and pepper.
- Serve with extra parmesan cheese and a crusty roll, if you’re so inclined…