Whenever I’m thinking about affordable, healthy recipes, I always turn to ethnic dishes that are traditionally considered “peasant” food.
The Romans, in particular, were notoriously frugal. Many classic dishes like this minestrone soup evolved to be vegetarian or vegetable-centric by necessity. Instead of pounds of meat, this one-pot wonder is centered around just a few seasonal ingredients and rounded out with pantry grains or legumes for fiber, bulk, and hardiness.
You can easily make this recipe vegan, but my idea of a one-pot wonder caters to the omnivore with a little bit of everything: a modest amount of lean animal protein; fiber-rich budget-friendly beans; and plenty of spring fennel, carrots, and herbs.
If you can’t find chicken or turkey sausage at the butcher counter, you can always make your own (hint: you’ll save even more money this way and control all the additives)!
Simply take the ground meat and build flavor with fresh garlic and various spices like fennel seed, chili flakes, and dried herbs. You can even make your own homemade sausage in bulk and freeze balls of it to add to future soups and stews.
Spring Minestrone Soup with Turkey Sausage + Fennel
You can throw in some short-shaped pasta (I like quinoa elbows) or leafy greens (like chard or kale) to add even more variety and bulk to this one-pot wonder.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- ½ pound turkey sausage (preferably, a mix of hot and sweet Italian), casings removed
- 1 small yellow onion, diced
- 1 medium carrot, peeled and diced
- 1 small fennel bulb, trimmed and diced
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced or crushed tomatoes
- 8 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- ½ cup coarsely chopped or torn herbs (mint, basil, chives, parsley, or a combination)
1. Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or stockpot. Brown the sausage over high heat, breaking up the meat with your spatula to form small clusters, until cooked through and beginning to crisp, about 4 minutes. Remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.
2. Add the onions, carrots, and fennel to the sausage drippings. Sauté over medium-high heat until soft, 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and cook for another minute, until fragrant. Pour in the tomatoes and simmer until the liquid is reduced and the tomato chunks have softened, 5 minutes. Add the cooked sausage, stock, salt, and beans to the pot. Bring to a boil.
3. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for 20 minutes uncovered, until the flavors have incorporated.
4. Off the heat, stir in the herbs and taste for seasoning. Garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and shaved Parmesan or pecorino, if you like.
For more recipe ideas, check out my MBG course How To Make Healthy & Delicious Meals On A Budget & In A Time-Crunch
Phoebe Lapine is a food and health writer, gluten-free chef, wellness personality, culinary instructor, and speaker based in New York. She has a B.A. from Brown University, but but was born and raised in New York City. On her award-winning blog, Feed Me Phoebe, she shares recipes for healthy comfort food and insights about balanced lifestyle choices beyond what’s on your plate. Lapine's forthcoming memoir, The Wellness Project, chronicles her journey with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis and how she finally found the middle ground between health and hedonism by making one lifestyle change, one month at a time. Connect with her on Instagram and Facebook for more creative clean recipes and inspiration.