Winter Minestrone

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Any variety of winter squash -- acorn, butternut, hubbard, or turban -- will furnish this version of the classic Italian vegetable soup with a bright color and gentle sweetness. Give this classic a pronounced Italian accent by using fresh escarole, a slightly bitter green that is much beloved by southern Italians and widely available during the cold months. Zesty Italian sausage provides a spicy contrast.

1  pound uncooked Italian or pork sausage links, cut into 3/4-inch slices
2 1/2  cups peeled winter squash, such as butternut squash, cut into 1-inch cubes 
1 1/2  cups cubed potatoes
2  medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
1  large onion, chopped
2  cloves garlic, minced
1  15-ounce can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1/2  teaspoon dried sage, crushed
4  cups chicken broth or vegetable broth
1  cup dry white wine
4  cups chopped kale or fresh spinach
In a large skillet cook the sausage until brown; drain well.
In a 5- to 6-quart crockery cooker place squash, potatoes, fennel, onion, garlic,
beans, and sage. Top with sausage. Pour broth and wine over all.  

Cover and cook on low-heat setting for 8 to 10 hours or on high-heat setting for 4 to
5 hours. Stir in kale or spinach. Cover and cook 5 minutes more. Makes 8 servings.


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