Most of us enjoy a good pot of ham and bean soup, but often we don’t have a ham bone on hand or the time to soak and simmer dried beans. Minced prosciutto instantly transforms chicken broth into a ham-flavored soup base. Italian sausage reinforces the pork flavor and makes the soup satisfying and substantial. Canned beans work as well as dried ones, and mashing some of them thickens the soup and gives it body.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds Italian sausages
2 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, minced
2 medium onions, cut into medium dice
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into medium dice
2 medium celery stalks, cut into medium dice
1 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
1 quart chicken broth
3 cans (16 ounces each) canned great northern or other white beans, undrained

Heat oil in a large deep pot over medium-high heat until hot. Add sausages and cook, turning once or twice, until well browned on all sides, about five minutes (sausage will not be fully cooked). Remove with a slotted spoon: when cool enough to handle, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices.

Meanwhile, add prosciutto, onions, carrots, celery, and thyme to pot and cook, stirring frequently, until vegetables are well browned, eight to ten minutes.

Add broth and sausage. Smash 1 can of beans with a fork, then add to soup with remaining beans. Cover, and bring to a simmer, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer, partially covered, to blend flavors, about twenty minutes. Turn off heat and let sit for ten minutes to let flavors develop.

Return soup to a simmer and serve. Serves 6.

Notes: Instead of canned great northern beans, I use cannellini beans. You can use bacon instead of prosciutto, or omit it all together.

Recipe courtesy of:
Anderson, Pam. Perfect Recipes for Having People Over . New York: Houghton Mifflin, 2005.