Layered with sautéed fennel bulb, fragrant fennel seeds and herbaceous fronds – fennel lovers rejoice, this soup is for you!
The magic of this soup is that it manages to be comforting and filling but not overly heavy. The broth, infused with white wine and fennel seeds, is studded with bits of garlicky sausage, white beans and an abundance of sweet, aromatic fennel.
Sautéing fennel brings out it’s natural sweetness and mellows it’s licorice edge. The fronds, and stalks have lots of flavor too. Reserve them until the last minutes to fold in a note of brightness just before serving.
Like most soup recipes, this one is versatile and very adaptable to what you may or may not have on hand. I’ve left “white beans” intentionally vague because, well, you can use pretty much any type of white beans; garbanzo, navy, great northerns, cannellini etc. Italian Pork sausage is specified, I love the rich porky-fatty-salty flavor it adds to the broth, but Italian chicken sausage would substitute just fine. See further substitutions and suggestions in the notes section of the recipe card.
Looking for the perfect soup and salad combo? Pair this brothy sausage and fennel soup with; Warm Spinach Salad with Roasted Beets, Goat Cheese and Crispy Shallots or The Perfect Kale Caesar Salad. Don’t forget a warm, crusty baguette to sop up the delicious broth!
Ingredients You’ll Need:
Scroll to the bottom of the recipe card for detailed ingredient notes and substitutions.
Note: You don’t necessarily need to use homemade chicken stock when making this soup (or any soup for that matter) but it is important to use a good-quality stock. It is afterall the entire base for your soup. There are lots options for high-quality stocks and bone broths at the supermarket these days. The freezer section is where you’ll find the best ones. The brand Bonafide is very good and widely available. Some specialty markets and butchers make and sell their own stocks, those are good options too. Avoid boxed or canned stocks if possible.
Recipe Step by Step:
Step 1. Sauté
The foundation of this soup is a combination of sausage, onion and fennel bulb. Cook the sausage first, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon as it cooks. After about 5-7 minutes add in the chopped onion and fennel bulb – cook and stir until the vegetables are soft and translucent.
Step 2. Deglaze
Next, add in the rest of the aromatics; garlic and fennel seed – cook and stir for 3-5 minutes until the garlic is soft and fragrant. Pour in the white wine, let the wine simmer and bubble for a few minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to release the browned bits. Once the wine is mostly reduced but not completely evaporated pour in the chicken stock, beans and thyme.
Step 3. Simmer
Bring the soup to a low simmer, cover and continue cooking for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Just before serving stir in the chopped fennel fronds. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed. Divide between bowls – serve hot!
Recipe Tips & Tricks
- Things to Look for When Buying Fennel: Choose bulbs that feel heavy for their size and have tightly packed layers. The stalks, should feel firm; with bright green (rather than limp and withering) fronds. Avoid bulbs with very loose outer layers or that look bruised or split on the outside.
- Chopping Fennel: Approach dicing a bulb of fennel the same way you would an onion. First, trim off the stalks and fronds with a sharp knife, set aside for later. Cut the bulb in half, set each half flat on a cutting board then make a series of horizontal cuts in the bulb followed by a series of vertical cuts, being careful not to cut all the way through the root end, so that the layers remain connected. Finally, dice the fennel by making a series of vertical cuts perpendicular to the first set of vertical cuts.
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Sausage, Fennel and White Bean Soup
- 3-4 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound Italian pork sausage about three links, casings removed
- 1 large fennel bulb diced, fronds and stems reserved for garnish
- 1/2 large yellow onion diced
- 4 cloves garlic grated
- 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 cups chicken stock or vegetable stock
- 3 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
- 1 15 oz can white beans, drained and rinsed like; navy, cannellini, great northern, garbanzo
- salt and pepper
- Place a large dutch oven or similar heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat-high. Heat the oil then add in the sausage. Cook the sausage in an even layer, stirring occasionally with a wooden spoon breaking it into bite-sized pieces until browned, about 10 minutes.
- Next, add the diced onion and fennel bulb along with a big pinch of salt and black pepper. Sauté for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onion and fennel are soft and aromatic, then add the garlic and fennel seeds, continue cooking for another 2-3 minutes.
- Pour in the white wine, let the wine simmer and bubble for a few minutes, stirring occasionally and scraping the bottom of the skillet with a wooden spoon to release any browned bits. Once the wine is mostly reduced but not completely evaporated pour in the chicken stock, beans, thyme and a few generous turns of freshly cracked black pepper. Bring the soup to a simmer then reduce the heat to low, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes. While the soup is simmering roughly chop the fennel fronds and finely dice a few stalks (about 1-cups worth combined), set aside
- Just before serving, remove and discard the thyme stems then stir in the chopped fennel fronds. Taste the soup and adjust the seasonings as needed. Divide between bowls – serve warm!
- Mild Italian Sausage: Pork or chicken is fine.
- White Wine: use a dry white wine, nothing too fancy. Pinto Grigio or Sauvignon Blanc work great. If you prefer not to cook with alcohol just skip this step.
- Chicken Stock: Vegetable stock, turkey stock or water can be substituted instead of chicken stock.
- White Beans: almost any white beans will do! Since this recipe calls for two cans I like to use two different beans. Garbanzo, navy beans, cannellini and butter beans will all work.
- Leftover soup will stay fresh in the refrigerator for 3-4 days. Reheat over low heat in a saucepan or in the microwave.
- Freezing Instructions: Cool the soup completely then transfer to an airtight, freezer-safe storage container. Store in the freezer for up to 3 months. To reheat, defrost the soup overnight in refrigerator then warm in the microwave or in a saucepan over low heat until hot – stir well.