Lasagna Soup

I know that in my Zuppa Toscana Soup post, I said that I don’t go to Italian restaurants. That does not mean I don’t like Italian food. I mean, what’s not to like? A perfectly seasoned sauce over tender meat, topped with ooey gooey cheese?

Lasagna is one of my favorite foods in the world. I happened upon this recipe for Lasagna Soup and was blown away. It’s a tomato broth soup with big pieces of Italian sausage, plenty of onions and spices, some fresh basil to lighten it all up, poured hot over a ball of ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. Life Altering. Seriously. I served this with my homemade French Bread, and it was almost an out-of-body experience. I should mention that I don’t consider canned tomatoes “real” food, only because many cans are lined with BPA, which are of special concern for tomatoes, because the acidity in tomatoes makes them leach more BPA into the food. I tried to find an alternative, and didn’t. Using self-canned tomatoes from glass jars, or roasting some tomatoes in the oven (like in my Roasted Red Salsa) would both be acceptable substitutes for the canned tomatoes here.

LASAGNA SOUP

8 oz fusilli pasta, or lasagna noodles broken into bite sized pieces.
2 tsp olive oil
1 pound mild Italian sausage (or hot, if you like some kick)
3 cups chopped onions
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp Italian seasoning
2 TBS tomato paste
1 28 oz can fire roasted diced tomatoes
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, cut into strips.
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
more shredded mozzarella cheese for the top

In a large pot, boil your noodles to “al dente” (not super floppy) according to package directions. Drain and set aside. In your soup pot, drizzle the olive oil and heat over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook until pieces are starting to brown. Add the onions and contnue to cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is fully cooked and the onions are translucent. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning and tomato paste. Cook for a minute or two, until the tomato paste darkens. Add in the tomatoes with their juice and the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. When the soup is done simmering, add the noodles and basil into the soup. To serve, place a dollop of cheese mixture into each bowl and pour the soup over it. You can sprinkle more mozzarella on top, if you desire.

printable version

Adapted from: A Farm Girls Dabbles

REAL food alert: Read above about canned tomatoes. Check your Chicken stock for MSG. Check your sausage for MSG and Preservatives .
ALLERGY alert: to make dairy-free, eliminate the cheese. For gluten-free, use rice pasta.
VEGGIE alert:  to make vegetarian, eliminate the sausage, use veggie broth and add zucchini, summer squash or eggplant. Also eliminate the cheese to make it vegan.
HEALTH alert: to make it healthier, use turkey sausage and wheat pasta.
For a freezer meal, or to make ahead, add everything except the cheese mixture and noodles. Freeze in gallon-sized freezer bags. To serve, defrost, add in cooked noodles and make the cheese mixture.
To convert this to a slow cooker meal, cook sausage and onions, place them in the slow cooker. Add the remaining soup ingredients (minus the cheese). Increase the chicken stock to 8 cups. Add in uncooked noodles. Cook on low 4 hours.

Zuppa Toscana Soup

I hate eating at Italian restaurants.

I cannot justify paying $10 a plate for pasta that I can make just as tastily (it’s a word…) in my own kitchen.

My favorite thing at Olive Garden is their black-tie cheesecake. (Yeah, I can probably make that, but it takes a long time, then I’d be stuck eating a whole cheesecake myself. What? Share?)

Then, one week I got some kale in our Bountiful Basket.

My choices were to find a recipe to make with it, or feed it to my husband’s classroom’s pet turtle. One of my friends suggested this soup, and boy am I glad they did! A cross between a creamy soup and a broth soup, with potatoes, sausage and kale…it’s now a family favorite.

ZUPPA TOSCANA SOUP

1 lb hot or mild italian sausage
1 small onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
32 oz chicken broth
3 cups water
3 medium potatoes, unpeeled.
3 cups kale
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (optional)

In a soup pot, place Italian sausage and diced onions. If the sausage is in links, remove the casings before putting them in the pot. Use hot Italian sausage if you like a kick. My kids prefer mild. Cook over medium heat. When the sausage is mostly cooked, add the garlic to the pan. Stir together and cook until sausage starts to brown. Remove the sausage, onion, garlic mixture to a bowl to wait.

In the same pot, over medium-high heat, pour in the chicken broth. Scrape any tasty brown bits from off of the bottom of the pan. Add the water to the pot. While waiting for that to boil (you can turn it to high if your pot can tolerate it), cut the potatoes into large matchstick-shaped pieces. I achieve this by cutting each potato in half lengthwise, then half again lengthwise, then turning onto the flat side, cutting lengthwise four more times, then in half. I am pretty sure only 2% of you understand what I’m talking about, so look at the picture for guidance. Place the potatoes in the pot with the broth mixture. Boil for about 10-15 minutes, until you can easily poke a potato with a fork, but they aren’t quite completely cooked.

Add in the kale, which you have cut into thin ribbons (discard the thick vein), and lower heat to medium. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, until kale is tender.

Add in your sausage mixture and heavy cream (and red pepper flakes if you need more kick). Lower heat to medium-low and simmer for an additional 5 minutes.

Serve with homemade bread. (That’s an order!!)

printable version

REAL food alert: Check your sausage ingredients for MSG, BHT or BHA.

ALLERGY alert: To make this dairy-free, simply substitute the cream with an alternative milk. Coconut milk is thick and would work well, it will change the taste a bit, but give an island flair. Add some sea salt if the alternative milk makes the soup too sweet. Check your broth and sausage ingredients for allergens.

HEALTH alert: you can lower fat by subbing half and half or evaporated skim milk for the cream. You can also use turkey sausage.

VEGGIE alert: You can make this vegetarian by subbing veggie broth for the chicken broth, omitting the sausage or subbing in cooked beans for it. You can make this vegan by also subbing the cream for an alternative milk (see above)