Soup for the Soul...

As we enter the last month of the year, I’ve been thinking about my New Year’s resolutions, and how well I ended up fulfilling them. In January, which simultaneously seems like a lifetime ago, and just yesterday, I resolved to try more new recipes for food other than desserts, and to carry on with my local church architecture project. Although I didn’t accomplish either task to quite the extent that I had planned, I made better progress on the first resolution than the second. 

I only made it to three Chicago churches this year, and I only had time to write about the first one (the other two posts will come eventually, they’re just languishing in blog purgatory until I have more time.) I made up an itinerary to see the majority of the ones remaining on my list in one day, but Dad wanted to go with me, and between his summer golf schedule and dedication to watching his beloved Fighting Illini play terrible football all fall, we couldn’t find a day to go. Now that the weather’s turned miserable, it’ll have to wait for next year.

I made slightly better progress on the recipe experimentation front. I’d originally wanted to try at least one new recipe a month, and I only ended up trying ten new recipes instead of twelve, but I had about a 50% success rate in terms of finding things that I’d want to make again, which isn’t so bad. I must say, that signing up for Pinterest has helped my cause considerably. Being able to see a photo of each recipe in my queue instead of just a long list of links, or worse, a closed binder full of clippings, is much more inspiring. After all, they do say that you eat with your eyes first.

Tonight I made another one of the recipes saved to my “Things I Want to Cook” board – lasagna soup. I’ve been crazy for soup ever since it started getting cold, which included attempting a new potato/cheddar soup a couple weeks ago that ended up not being blog-worthy, and the idea of capturing the flavors of lasagna in soup was appealing. I ended up making a few changes to the original recipe, so some of the lasagna-like elements of the dish were eliminated, but the vaguely Italian soup I ended up with was still delicious, and certainly worth making again.

The original recipe called for a ricotta cheese garnish, which I substituted out for small pieces of fresh mozzarella cheese, since I absolutely abhor ricotta. In future iterations, I would puree the fire-roasted tomatoes before adding them to the soup, because the flavor was worth using them instead of plain crushed tomatoes (my usual choice for cooking) but I don’t like the texture of large tomato chunks. I would also consider adding some spinach, in order to up the nutritional content of the meal, since I find soup is often a good way to trick myself into eating vegetables that I wouldn’t otherwise find palatable.

This hearty soup is perfect for a cold winter’s day, and it’s hearty enough to fuel you for a day of playing in the snow (or shoveling, as the case may be.) I was glad I took a chance on this new recipe, and you will be too.

Lasagna Soup
adapted from A Farmgirl's Dabbles

1 1/2 lbs. hot Italian sausage
1 1/2 onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
28 oz. fire-roasted tomatoes, pureed 
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken stock
Parmesan cheese rind
1/2 package frozen spinach, thawed and drained
8 oz. short pasta (I used ditalini)
1/2 c. fresh basil, chiffonaded
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese
8 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese pearls
Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic and oregano. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add pureed tomatoes, bay leaves, chicken stock, Parmesan rind, and spinach. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Stir in 1/2 c. Parmesan cheese until melted. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy. Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To serve, ladle into bowls and top with bits of mozzarella cheese. Add additional Parmesan cheese on top, if desired.

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