Staying Healthy, Italian-Style
I love making soups this time of year. This is a quick and easy soup to make, inspired by my two favorite Italian soups: Pasta E Fagioli and Italian Wedding Soup, and it has such great nutrition for cyclists, I named it “Zuppa di Ciclista” (Cyclist’s soup–sounds better in Italian, though!). Serve with a crusty whole-grain bread and a tossed green salad for a well-rounded meal.
This is a great cold-season soup with some great immunity-bolstering ingredients such as spinach, onion, chicken broth, garbanzo beans, garlic, and tomatoes to keep you healthy as the seasons change and the cold virus comes out in force. There is also a good amount of iron here too in the spinach, beans (especially the cannellini beans) and even in the turkey sausage. Athletic women often are deficient in iron (especially endurance athletes), which is a key nutrient for muscle health, maintaining your core body temperature, fighting fatigue, and yes, boosting immunity. Stay healthy Italian-style! Buon appetito!
Zuppa di Ciclista
- 1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ lb. Italian turkey sausage
- 1 medium onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 ½ quarts homemade chicken broth (or equiv. of canned broth)
- 2 cups water
- 1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomato, undrained
- 1 (15 oz.) can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 oz.) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup orzo (or other small) pasta
- 5 oz. package fresh baby spinach, pre-washed & coarsely chopped
- ½ teaspoon sea salt (or to taste)
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper (or to taste)
- Parmesan cheese (for serving)
Heat a soup pot over medium heat and pour in a drizzle of olive oil. Break up the Italian turkey sausage and add to the pot along with the diced onion. Cook sausage and onion until sausage is cooked and onion is tender, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook another couple minutes. Sprinkle oregano over the onion-sausage mixture, stir a few seconds more and then add broth, water, canned tomatoes and beans. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes.
Turn up the heat so that soup is at a full boil and add the pasta, dropping it into soup from a height of about 6 inches. Bring soup to a gentle boil and cook pasta about 10 minutes, add spinach, salt and some pepper. Turn heat down and cover with lid and cook just another minute or two. Remove from heat and taste, adding more salt or pepper if desired. Serve with a sprinkling of Parmesan cheese if desired.
(Vegetarians can adapt this by leaving out the sausage, doubling the amount of garlic, adding a dash of crushed red pepper and crushed fennel to taste. Another can of beans could be added. For broth, use a good quality vegetable broth.)