Creamy White Bean and Sausage Soup

i made this soup tonight for dinner. the sausage went really nicely with the beans. i used a mild italian sausage, but this would also go really well with something spicier. here's the recipe...

...recipe from the february 2006 issue of Bon App├ętit
1 pound dried cannellini or great northern beans
8 cups water
3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 cloves garlic; 2 smashed, 2 chopped
1 fresh rosemary sprig
1 bay leaf
1 large onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
1 large celery stalk, chopped
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme, divided
4 cups chicken broth
1 pound italian sausage, casings removed
1/4 cup whipping cream

Place beans in a saucepan and add enough water to cover the beans by 4 inches. Let beans soak overnight at room temperature.

Drain and rinse the beans and reutrn to the saucepan. Add 8 cups water, 1 tablespoon oil, smashed garlic, rosemary, and bay leaf. Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to medium-low. Simmer partially covered until the beans are just tender, about 1- 1 1/2 hours.

Drain the beans, reserving the cooking liquid. Discard the rosemary sprig and bay leaf.

Heat remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrot, and celery and season with salt and pepper. Saute until the vegetables start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and 1 teaspoon thyme and saute 2 minutes. Add 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking liquid, 4 cups chicken broth, and beans. Bring to a boil and then simmer uncovered until the vegetables are tender, about 25 minutes. Cool the soup for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile cook the sausage in a large skillet over medium-high heat, breaking it into small pieces. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

Using a slotted spoon remove 1 1/2 cups of the bean mixture from the soup and set aside. Puree the remaining soup in a food processor or blender. You may need to do this in batches. Return the soup to the pot. Stir in the reserved bean mixture, 1 1/2 teaspoons thyme, sausage, and cream. Rewarm the soup over medium heat.


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