Braised Italian Beans & Weenies…

“I stopped believing in Santa Claus when I was six. Mother took me to see him in a department store, and he asked for my autograph.”
Shirley Temple

braised-fennel-and-bean-soupWell, not exactly like what you are thinking more like Italian sausage and braised beans with fennel…a rather easy make ahead dinner partially cooked stove top and finished in the oven, great for a fireside dinner before Christmas.  You can add a warm loaf of crusty bread to go along with the soup or a salad for a casual company dinner.  You can change out the sausage for a fat smoked ham shank or use another favorite sausage.  This time I precooked the sausage to add near the end of the beans cooking time along with additional browned and braised fennel.

This is enough soup for 4-5 people or great for lunch the next day… save some of the fennel fronds to chop for garnish.

4 fat links of Italian sausage, browned but not cooked through
1 fennel bulb, quartered, cored and diced
*optional 1/2 fennel bulb cut in half, browned in a bit of EVOO then covered and braised with in white wine until tender
1 leek, cleaned, quartered and chopped
1/2 large onion, diced
1 large carrot, diced
2 big cloves of peeled garlic, I cook it whole in the sop
8 ounces dried cannellini beans
1 or two sprigs parsley chopped
1 sprig  fresh thyme leaves
1 or two fresh sage leaves
6 cups of hot water
1 small chunk of parmesan cheese rind
1 packet condensed chicken stock, toss in the pot the last 20 or so minutes
serve with a generous bowl of freshly grated cheese

*salt the soup once the beans have softened

braised-fennel-and-beans

Preheat your oven to 350º…in a heavy oven proof pot sweat all of the vegetables except garlic in 2 tablespoons of EVOO for 4-5 minutes (add the garlic cloves for two minutes) of the cooking time, stir often to avoid burning.  Turn off the heat add the beans and all of the herbs, cover and place in the oven for at least 2 hours or until beans are soft my beans were tender at about 2 hours.  At this point you can either add the sausages whole or sliced and it will need to cook for another 5 or so minutes.  Alternately braise the optional fennel and add the sliced sausage to the pan and finally pour into the finished beans.

Serve with freshly grated cheese and Michael made a last-minute request to add some tortellini and they were a nice addition to the soup.