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.