Tuesday, November 1, 2016

Tuscan Bean Soup with Asiago Toasts

LESLIE BUDEWITZ: We can’t let a winter go by without making this fabulous soup at least once, based on a recipe I found ages ago in Country Living Magazine. In fact, winter can stop before it starts this year, since we’ve already made it!

I usually jot the date of the first time I make something on my recipe or in the cookbook, and was startled to discover I first made this the spring of the year we were married—sixteen years ago today!

Mr. Right and I can’t decide whether we love eating the soup more than we love saying “Asiago Toasts.” Really, it rolls trippingly off the tongue, doesn’t it? And oh, how they melt in the mouth.

This soup may also have been the first recipe either of us cooked with fennel, although I’d used fennel seed in pickling. It’s a marvelous revelation of a vegetable—not an onion as you might think, but part of the carrot family! You can see it in the fronds. Crunchy, slightly sweet, with an anise flavor.

Speaking of fronds, be sure to save a few to sprinkle on top of the soup. We bought two trimmed bulbs at Trader Joe’s on our recent trip through Spokane, but happily, the fronds were intact! Occasionally when I toss a bulb in my grocery cart, a clerk asks what I plan to make with it. One other option is to cut it into spears, wrap them in prosciutto, and toss them in the grill or under the broiler. I don’t recall where I found the recipe that became the Arugula and Fennel Salad with Double Mustard Vinaigrette in my second Spice Shop mystery, GUILTY AS CINNAMON, but it’s terrific. And on our recent research (okay, eating) trip to the coast, we had a lovely salad with a few slivers of raw fennel shaved onto mixed greens. Heavenly!

I use turkey sausage for this recipe. If you want to use one of the spiced or flavored sausages available, be aware that you may want to adjust your spicing and seasoning.

Congratulations to Sheila Connolly on the recent release of SEARCH FOR THE DEAD, which she assures us is a Halloween mystery! (The jack o'lanterns are a good hint, aren't they?) 


1 tablespoon vegetable oil (I use canola)
1 pound smoked turkey or chicken sausage, sliced 1/4" thick
1-1/4 cups chopped fennel (one large bulb)
1-1/4 cups chopped onion
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 quart low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I use the Pacific Organics brand)
1-15 ounce can diced tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon dried sage
2-14 ounce cans canellini (white) beans, rinsed and drained
1-2 tablespoons reserved fronds

½ cup Asiago cheese, grated
12-1/2" thick slices of baguette

In a soup pot or kettle, heat the oil and saute the sausage, over medium heat, until the sausage is thoroughly heated, about 5-7 minutes.

Place the sausage in a bowl, leaving about 1 tablespoon of drippings in the pot.

Add the fennel and onion to the pot and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook another minute.

Add the broth, tomatoes, black pepper, and sage. Stir and cook about 10 minutes. Add the beans and sausage, and bring to a boil over medium heat; cook about 1 minute. Reduce heat to a simmer for about 10 minutes.

Adjust the oven rack and heat the broiler. Place a silicon baking sheet on your baking pan if you have one, for ease of cleanup. Lay the baguette slices on the baking sheet and mound about 2 teaspoons on each slice. Broil until cheese is melted and bread lightly toasted—about 3 minutes in my oven, on low broil.

Serve soup with a few fronds sprinkled on top, and toasts on the side. Enjoy!

Makes 6 servings, more or less.

Happy Anniversary to Mr. Right!

What’s your favorite fall or winter soup? 

From the cover of KILLING THYME (October 2016, in paperback, e-book, and audio---large print coming soon!): 

At Seattle Spice in the Pike Place Market, owner Pepper Reece is savoring her business success, but soon finds her plans disrupted by a killer…

Pepper Reece’s to-do list is longer than the shopping list for a five-course dinner, as she conjures up spice blends bursting with seasonal flavor, soothes nervous brides fretting over the gift registry, and crosses her fingers for a rave review from a sharp-tongued food critic. Add to the mix a welcome visit from her mother, Lena, and she’s got the perfect recipe for a busy summer garnished with a dash of fun. 

While browsing in the artists’ stalls, Pepper and Lena drool over stunning pottery made by a Market newcomer. But when Lena recognizes the potter, Bonnie Clay, as an old friend who disappeared years ago, the afternoon turns sour. To Pepper’s surprise, Bonnie seems intimately connected to her family’s past. after Bonnie is murdered only days later, Pepper is determined to uncover the truth. 

But as Pepper roots out long-buried secrets, will she be digging her own grave?

Leslie Budewitz is the author of the Food Lovers’ Village Mysteries and the Spice Shop Mysteries—and the first author to win Agatha Awards for both fiction and nonfiction. The 2015-16 president of Sisters in Crime, she lives in northwest Montana with her husband, a musician and doctor of natural medicine, and their cat Ruff, a cover model and avid bird-watcher.

Swing by my website  and join the mailing list for my seasonal newsletter. And join me on Facebookwhere I often share news of new books and giveaways from my cozy writer friends.


  1. Sounds very tasty.
    I bet the smokey sausage pairs well with the fennel taste and the smoosh of the beans.

    1. "The smoosh of the beans" -- love that description, Libby!

  2. This is right up my alley. I love soups like this. Beans and sausage - yum! But spare me the fennel. I never have developed a fondness for anise. ; )

    1. It mellows with the sauteeing, but if it's not your flavor, perhaps a mix of onions, or a carrot for more crunch and sweetness?

  3. I'd have to make this without fennel since my Mom won't eat it. Subbing a carrot sounds good. I make soup all winter. My favorites are lamb or chicken barley. My boyfriend's favorite seems to be whatever one I've just made.

    1. A willingness to eat -- and enjoy -- whatever one's sweetheart has just made is a most attractive quality!

  4. Oh, boy. I am so hungry now. Few things beat white beans for flavor and satisfaction, in my book.

  5. That soup looks very good! Thanks for the recipe. And thanks for writing the books! I love them!