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Friday, December 6, 2013

A Frank About Food Flashback: Soup Season

Originally posted on 1/19/2012...

When the weather turns cold, one comfort food really comes to my mind: SOUP!

Growing up, my mother made a potato soup that I have never been able to replicate, or find a recipe that comes out like hers did. It had a thin, milky base… actual CHUNKS of potatoes (not those mashed up, thick soups)… bits of crunchy white onions… a raft of butter floating across the surface… a nice seasoning of black pepper. I used to practically sop all the broth out of the soup with saltines. (This is probably when my “one sleeve per can of soup” saltine habit developed!) There is just something about that soup memory…

When we got into a cold spell in December, I came across a soup recipe online that sounded very interesting. It came out absolutely fantastic! I will reprint it below for anyone interested. It had some really deep, complex flavors that just meshed so well together, and provided just the thing we needed for a cold December evening. I’ve been ready to delve into some more soups, but it got a bit warmer out, to which we’ve become accustomed in Missouri. However, this week it has gotten frigid, again; and I felt it would be a good time to approach the soup subject with you.

So, tell me... What are some of your favorite soups, in the depths of winter? Do you have a family soup recipe that you just have to make every year? Or even, where do you go for a great bowl of soup?

I’ll be looking forward to your comments and feedback! 

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Note: This is a recipe that was submitted by a user named Mary P. on and can be found here. This is not my recipe, and I do not take credit for creating it. 

1 lb. sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 C. chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
5 C. beef broth
1/2 C. water
1/2 C. red wine
4 large tomatoes - peeled, seeded and chopped
1 C. thinly sliced carrots
1/2 Tblsp. packed fresh basil leaves
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1 (8 oz.) can tomato sauce
1½ C. sliced zucchini
8 oz. fresh tortellini pasta
3 Tblsp. chopped fresh parsley

1.    In a 5 quart Dutch oven, brown the sausage. Remove sausage and drain, reserving 1 tablespoon of the drippings.

2.     Sauté onions and garlic in drippings. Stir in beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce, and sausage. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat; simmer uncovered for 30 minutes.

3.     Skim fat from the soup. Stir in zucchini and parsley. Simmer covered for 30 minutes. Add tortellini during the last 10 minutes. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top of each serving. 

Notes from my personalized preparation of the soup

1.  You can use hot Italian sausage in place of the sweet version, if you desire. 

2.   I actually used dried basil, instead of the fresh. I used approximately the same amount, although you would normally use a 1 to 3 ratio when replacing dried herbs for fresh. (That is, for example, if you need 3 Tblsp. of fresh, you would use 1 Tblsp. of dried.)

3.   Instead of whole tomatoes, I used whole canned tomatoes, and scraped out the seeds. If you haven't notice in recent years, the tomatoes you purchase "fresh" at the store are horrible excuses for a true tomato. 

4.  I actually added the carrots while the onions and garlic sautéed, to add a little caramelization to them. I won't get into all the science and intricacies about caramelization (I'll save that lesson for another post, at a later time.), but anytime you put a little caramelization, or browning, on a food, it adds a richer, nutty, more complex flavor. It helps add a "pop" or pizzazz to your dish. 

5.  I topped each bowl of soup with some Parmesan-Reggiano ran over my Microplane grater, and served with a nice crusty piece of French bread. ( I split the loaf and put it under the broiler in the oven, until it had a nice crusty surface.) A nice glass of red wine compliments the layers of flavor from this soup very well. 


  1. Any recommendations for subbing out the sausage but still getting great flavor?

    1. If you think of the ingredients, and what each contributes to the flavor, I would think shaved fennel tossed in at the beginning when you get that brown on the carrots, it should be similar.

    2. Some of my families favorite soups are my baked potato and creamy tomato however my favorite soup came from Giada and was actually the first recipe of hers I ever cooked. Over the years I have tweaked it and if you search for Chicken Stew you will find over 500 comments with all kinds of ideas. Here is my version:
      Italian Chicken Stew
      2 tablespoons olive oil
      2 stalks celery, cut into bite-size pieces
      1 carrot, peeled, cut into bite-size pieces
      1 small onion, chopped
      3 cloves garlic, chopped
      Salt and freshly ground black pepper
      ½ cup good red wine
      1 (14 1/2-ounce) can chopped tomatoes, fire roasted
      1 (14-ounce) can low-salt chicken broth, good quality or homemade
      1/2 cup fresh basil leaves, torn into pieces
      1 tablespoon tomato paste
      1 bay leaf
      1/2 teaspoon dried thyme leaves
      2 chicken breast with ribs (about 1 1/2 pounds total)
      1 (15-ounce) can kidney beans or cannellini beans, drained (rinsed)

      Heat the oil in a heavy 5 1/2-quart saucepan over medium heat. Add the celery, carrot, garlic and onion. Saute the vegetables until the onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, to taste. Add wine and reduce. Stir in the tomatoes with their juices, chicken broth, basil, tomato paste, bay leaf, and thyme and kidney beans. Bring to a simmer then Add the chicken breasts; press to submerge.
      Bring the cooking liquid to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer gently uncovered until the chicken is almost cooked through, turning the chicken breasts over and stirring the mixture occasionally, about 25 minutes. Using tongs, transfer the chicken breasts to a work surface and cool for 5 minutes. Discard the bay leaf. Simmer until the liquid has reduced into a stew consistency, about 10 minutes.
      Discard the skin and bones from the chicken breasts. Cut the chicken into bite- size pieces. Return the chicken meat to the stew. Bring the stew just to a simmer. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

    3. Here is an EASY crusty bread recipe to go with those wonderful soups:
      No Knead Crusty Bread

      3 cups unbleached all purpose flour
      1 3/4 teaspoons salt
      1/2 teaspoon Instant or Rapid-rise yeast
      1 1/2 cups water
      1T Sugar

      In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flour, salt and yeast. Add water and mix until a shaggy mixture forms. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for 12 - 18 hours. Overnight works great. Heat oven to 450 degrees. When the oven has reached 450 degrees place a cast iron pot with a lid in the oven and heat the pot for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, pour dough onto a heavily floured surface and shape into a ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let set while the pot is heating. Remove hot pot from the oven and drop in the dough. Cover and return to oven for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes remove the lid and bake an additional 15 minutes. Remove bread from oven and place on a cooling rack to cool.

      As to add ins -

      1. Turkey bacon and cheddar - huge hit
      2. Rosemary, feta and sundried tomatoes - i found the ones in oil to bring a fantastic flavor
      3. Jalapeno, and pepper jack - wow!!! used canned peppers - small can
      4. Rosemary and Feta
      5. Lemon zest, feta, and rosemary
      6. Roasted smashed garlic - family fav.

  2. Your recipe sounds fantastic and I agree fennel would be a delicious substitute. My all-time favorite soup to make is split pea with some nice ham hocks. Believe it or not, my favorite ready made (heat and serve) soup is Trader Joe's organic Creamy Tomato. It's really delicious.