I'm not anti-vegetarian by any means. Before my surgery we had lots of meatless meals, usually centered around pasta. However, pasta on it's own isn't a great choice for me anymore, and on top of that, I consciously work at adding protein to my recipes wherever I can. That's why most of my recipes have two different sources of protein, and this one's no different: Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro. I add spicy sausage (a family favorite) as well as farro, which is a terrific whole grain that has a big-time chewy texture and a mild nutty flavor. Farro is also a great source of plant-based protein. It has 7 grams for every 1/4 cup serving, coming in even higher than quinoa or brown rice. It really adds a special something to this earthy soup.
When it comes down to it, I guess I just don't think like a vegetarian when I'm creating a soup recipe. However, if you're a vegetarian, there are still options here. Usually one of the two proteins I add to my soups is plant-based, so you could simply eliminate the meat protein. In this soup, you could certainly skip the sausage and substitute vegetable broth for the chicken broth, and you'd be good to go.
Hearty Mushroom and Sausage Soup with Farro
2/3 cup farro, soaked in cold water for 20 minutes
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
24 oz. sliced cremini mushrooms (I cheat and buy the packages already sliced for me)
1 t. salt
1 lb. spicy Italian ground sausage
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 clove garlic, pressed through a garlic press
2 carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
1/2 t. dried thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken broth
1 T. red wine vinegar
Heat olive oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When hot, but not smoking, add mushrooms and stir to coat in olive oil. Sprinkle salt over mushrooms. (This will help them give up more of their moisture so you can get them crispy.) Sautee mushrooms for 15 minutes or so. First they'll give up a lot of moisture, then that will cook off and you want to continue sauteeing them until they are browned and have crispy edges. When done, remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Sautee sausage in same pot, pressing with spoon to break up, until browned and cooked through. Remove with slotted spoon and set aside.
Add in onions and sautee until they are soft and golden, about 6-8 minutes. Add in garlic and sautee briefly, around 30 seconds. Add carrots and celery and sautee until vegetables begin to soften, around 4 minutes. Add red pepper, thyme, and bay leaves and stir to coat vegetables.
Add the chicken stock to the pot, along with the reserved mushrooms and sausage. Drain farro and add to pot. Simmer soup until the farro is tender and chewy, around 30-45 minutes longer. Add vinegar, taste, and season with salt and pepper if needed.