Pressured to Perfection in 20 Minutes
Here’s to the pantry, refrigerated and frozen leftovers and the magic of a pressure cooker. Absolutely delicious Italianesque vegetable and sausage soup in 30 minutes, from beginning to the table.
It was a classic late afternoon situation. After a full day of long distance appointments and errands in cold, windy weather I pulled into the garage an hour later than I had planned. Greeted by two tail-wagging Labradors that knew I had come home just to feed them dinner and chaperone their late afternoon walk, I threw kibble into their bowls, changed my shoes and set off for another hour.
Finally at home for good by 6, I walked into the kitchen where a fire roared romantically in one corner, Annie Lenox’s sultry voice and a glass of wine beckoned me to relax in front of the fire. And then came that dreaded question, “Hi honey, what’s for dinner? I’m famished. ”
Ten minutes in a chair and the wine had worked, so I opened the refrigerator to see if anything there could be transformed into a meal. The produce drawer offered half of a yellow onion, half of a large fennel bulb, three stalks of celery, a partial bunch of kale and a bunch of carrots. In the meat drawer were three Isernio’s Italian sausages thawed two days before. I knew there was a head of fresh garlic in its basket and canned tomato, stock and cannellini beans in the pantry. Fennel and sausage soup. Yahoo!
I looked at my watch and realized it was 6:30. Great! Romantic hearty soup at 10:30; there’s a winner! Deflated, I reached for a box of pasta and saw the pressure cooker on the pantry shelf. Why not?
For the next 10 minutes I sliced, chopped and peeled, putting it all directly into the pressure cooker with stock and canned tomatoes. I cooked it at high pressure for 20 minutes, adding the beans I had pureed at the end. At 7, we sat down to a dinner of hearty soup and warmed focaccia (leftover in freezer).
The sensational soup tasted like it had simmered for hours, and because the pressure cooker doesn’t alter the brilliant greens, oranges or whites, it also looked gorgeous. Thanks to leftovers, a full pantry and that fabulous pressure cooker.
- The rinds of Parmesan and other similar hard, aged cheeses are classic flavor additions to soups in Italy. The richness they add to a broth cannot be duplicated. With about ¼” of cheese attached, rinds freeze well for up to about 6 months. Cook them with the soup and remove them before serving.
- As garlic is sliced or chopped, bitter acids are released. For milder garlic flavor, slice rather than chop or mince.
- I pureed the beans because I wanted a thicker soup. If you prefer a clearer stock based soup, don’t puree. Either way, add them after the soup has cooked.
- My pressure cooker came with two pots, one shallow and the other pasta cooking deep with a removable rack for canning. (Costco and Amazon)
These quantities make 6 generous servings.
(From the refrigerator, most leftover)
½ yellow onion, peeled and chopped (3/4 cup)
4 fresh garlic heads, peeled and sliced
½ fresh fennel bulb, chopped (1+ cup)
3 stalks celery, sliced
5 new potatoes, quartered
3 Isernio’s Mild Italian sausages, sliced
3 frozen Parmesan cheese rinds (2-3”@)
From the Pantry
1, 14.5oz can diced tomatoes, juice included
6 cups chicken stock
1 tbs. dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp. ground fennel seed
¼ tsp. dehydrated red pepper flakes
1, 15oz. can Cannellini beans, drained and pureed
Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Extra Virgin Olive oil
- Put all ingredients except beans, salt, pepper and olive oil in the pressure cooker pot.
- Set on high pressure according to manufacturer’s instructions, and cook for 15 minutes. Depressurize and open lid.
- Check the doneness of vegetables. Stir in pureed beans. Add salt and pepper to taste. If vegetables need more cooking, replace the lid, set the pressure and cook another 5 or 6 minutes.
- Remove cheese rinds from soup. Ladle into warmed bowls and drizzle each serving with 1 tbs. olive oil.