White Bean, Fennel, and Sausage Soup

1 lb Italian sausage, skinned and crumbled
1 medium fennel bulb, coarsely chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
6 cups chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
(1) 28-oz can Italian peeled tomatoes and juice
1/2 cup uncooked shell or elbow pasta
2 cups cooked whole beans (cannellini or Great Northern, rinsed if canned)
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
16 thick slices DLM French or Italian bread, well-toasted and rubbed with garlic
Fennel leaves, chopped, for garnish

Brown the sausage in a heavy Dutch oven or large saucepan until well browned. Drain off most of the fat. Add the fennel, onions, and garlic; sauté until the vegetables are crisp-tender. Add the chicken stock, tomatoes with their juice, and pasta. Break up the tomatoes with a spoon and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and simmer until the vegetables and pasta are tender, about 30 minutes. Stir in the beans and fresh basil, and heat through. Season with salt and pepper. Spoon into wide, shallow soup bowls. Place 2 pieces of garlic-rubbed toast in the center of each bowl. Grate cheeseover the toast, and sprinkle with chopped fennel leaves.

Makes 8 servings

Allergy Warning: Contains MilkContains Wheat

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