beautiful and hearty soup … I love to make soup, and flip-flop between trying new recipes and sticking with tried-and-true favorites. This has become my go-to soup, and I try to keep a couple of meals-worth in the freezer. You can have a pot ready to go in under an hour, though the flavor certainly improves with a little age.
(rather loosely based on Sicilian Soup with Sausage, from Good & Garlicky, Thick & Hearty, Soul-Satisfying, More-Than-Minestrone Italian Soup Cookbook by Joe Famularo, 1998)
Notes: The original recipe called for Italian pork sausage with casings removed. Of course I promptly changed that to bulk Italian sausage (Jimmy Dean’s works well), then changed that to chicken breakfast sausage to cut down on the cholesterol and added a goodly amount (approx 1 tbsp or to taste) of Penzey’s Italian Sausage Seasoning plus some fennel seed to get the Italian flavoring back into it, more garlic, a little bit of heat and a good shot of Mrs Dash Tomato Basil Garlic (approx 1 tbsp +/-). I also add either kale (approx 1/2 bunch, stems removed, and chopped) or cabbage (to taste, cut into edible-sized pieces), depending on what’s on hand – kale needs to cook longer than the cabbage.
Heat soup kettle and sauté in a little olive oil until softened:
1/8-1/4 tsp fennel seed (optional; crush slightly)
1 large onion in 1/2-inch dice
Add Italian Sausage seasoning if using, 1# sausage and continue to cook until sausage is lightly browned, breaking up sausage with a wooden spoon or potato masher. Remove excess fat.
While sausage is cooking, peel and slice 3 (or more) carrots and 2 or 3 stalks of celery (with leaves), add to pan and continue to sauté until vegetables start to get a little color.
Add 1-28 oz can of tomatoes with juice (cut up if using whole), 1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley (optional), basil and other seasonings to taste, 5 cups of chicken broth (I use low sodium and do my own salting) and bring to a boil; add kale. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 min then taste. If the tomatoes seem too tart, add sugar to taste (1/2 tsp at a time, then taste again, etc). Add 1 can of kidney or other beans (optional), and cabbage and continue to simmer until vegetables are tender.
Add 1/2-2/3 cup orzo or other small pasta and salt and pepper to taste and simmer, stirring to keep the pasta from sticking, until the pasta is cooked al dente.
Serve with grated pecorino or Parmesan cheese and hot crusty bread.