Of all the recipes I made from the Whole 30 Fast and Easy Cookbook, the fennel soup with spinach and spicy sausage was hands-down my favorite. To be fair, that’s less of a glowing recommendation for the soup and more of a statement on the cookbook as a whole. This fennel soup is a great weeknight choice; it isn’t “under 30 minutes” fast, but it’s about 45-60 minutes fast, full of flavor, and super healthy.
Fennel soup has never struck me as a soup I particularly cared to try, but this one is considerably more than the sum of its parts. On its own, I found the fennel soup to be too sharp. It needs the extra fat and seasoning from the spicy sausage and the mellow flavor from the spinach to be a good soup. Caleb tasted the fennel soup on its own, vehemently declared it to be awful, and refused to try it later with the spinach and spicy sausage added. Take his reaction under advisement and don’t let other people taste the soup until it’s a cohesive warm and nutritious bowl of fennel soup with mix-ins.
To make it, you’ll first start by browning a pound of bulk spicy pork (or turkey) sausage in a little olive oil or clarified butter. As the sausage sautés, break up any large chunks to wind up with nicely browned bite-sized pieces of sausage. Depending on the size of your pan, this should take about 7-10 minutes. These browned sausage pieces cool on a paper towel-lined plate, with the towel absorbing extra oil. Any extra oil in the pan is poured into a glass jar to throw away, once the oil is cooled.
As the sausage was cooking, you can multi-task by prepping all of the vegetables that need to be chopped. The soup is going to be pureed later, so no need to be overly precise about this part. If you don’t get to all of the vegetables while the sausage cooks, no worries, there will be time as the hardier veggies cook.
In the same pan the sausage was cooked in, add the onion, garlic, chili flakes (if using), salt, and black pepper and let them cook until softened, about 5-10 minutes. While this happens, rough chop a bulb of fennel and break up the head of cauliflower into florets. Add the chopped fennel and cauliflower florets, then keep sauteing for another 5-10 minutes. Meanwhile, roughly chop the 3 stalks of celery and add those to the pan once the fennel is starting to look slightly softened.
After another 5-10 minutes (so 15-30 minutes total of vegetable sauteing), taste the softened vegetables and add a little more salt, black pepper, and chili flakes. The amount added depends a lot on how flavorful/salty the chicken broth you use is. I added another 1/2 teaspoon of salt and 6-8 grinds of black pepper.
At this point, it’s time to add the chicken broth. First, add just 1/2 cup and use the chicken broth liquid to deglaze the browned bits on the bottom of the pot. Once that’s done, bring the soup to a boil, then lower the heat to simmer for 15 minutes.
If you’re keeping track, you’ll notice that we’ve flown past the 30 minute mark here to almost 60 minutes. Still doable, but not the fastest soup I’ve ever made.
After the soup has simmered for 15 minutes, wait for it to cool a little, add the 1/2 teaspoon paprika, then puree the soup in batches until silky smooth. Finally, stir in the baby spinach and the browned sausage. Serve immediately, with paprika alongside to sprinkle over the top.
A fast and tasty soup that happens to be Whole30-compliant. If that’s a thing you do, great. If it’s not, great. There’s no judgement here, just soup.
Adapted somewhat from the Whole 30 Fast and Easy Cookbook
Fennel Soup with Spinach and Spicy Sausage
- 1 pound spicy ground pork sausage
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil or clarified butter
- 1 medium onion coarsely chopped
- 2 cloves garlic minced
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 1 bulb fennel trimmed, cored, and coarsely chopped
- 4 cups cauliflower florets about 1 head of cauliflower or 3 cups cauliflower rice
- 3 stalks celery coarsely chopped
- 5 cups chicken stock
- 1/2 teaspoon paprika
- 5 ounces fresh (or frozen) baby spinach leaves
Brown the spicy sausage over medium heat in a large heavy pot, stirring/flipping occasionally until cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sausage to a plate lined with paper towels to absorb some of the fat. Drain any of the remaining sausage fat from the skillet.
Heat the olive oil in the same pot of medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic, salt, and black pepper, continuing cooking another minute, then add the celery, fennel, and cauliflower florets. Let the vegetables continue to sweat, stirring occasionally, another 6-7 minutes. Stir a little bit of the chicken stock into the vegetables, scraping up any browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Add the rest of the chicken stock, bring to a bowl, then reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Let the soup cool briefly, add the paprika, then carefully transfer the soup to a high-speed blender in batches and blend until fully smooth.
To serve from a single pot, add the soup back to the original pot and stir in the spinach and cooked spicy sausage. To serve individual bowls, place a handful of spinach leaves at the bottom of each bowl, ladle two scoops of soup on top, and decorate with a scattering of the pork sausage.