culinary alchemy: italian sausage soup

22 Nov

The alchemy of cooking never ceases to amaze me. If you were me, you were standing over the soup pot the other night gravely concerned about how wine-y it was smelling as it simmered – UNTIL you added the zucchini and green pepper (and just a little chicken broth, it’s true, I was that concerned), and pasta shells, and parmesan – and then you hesitantly took your first taste when it was all done and BLAMMO! Amazing culinary alchemy! Yummy soup from what you had thought might turn out to be wine-y mess! Another lesson in trusting the recipe. Although sometimes the lesson is actually “you should have followed your gut and NOT trusted that recipe”, luckily this time the recipe proved out.

I got this recipe, for Italian Sausage soup, from another blog I frequently read (and link to), Posie Gets Cozy. Alicia got the recipe from “Noteworthy: A Collection of Recipes from the Ravinia Festival”. And now I am duplicating it below:


1 1/2 lbs Italian Sausage (mild or hot), cut in 1/2 inch slices

2 large onions, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

28 oz. canned Italian-style tomatoes with liquid

42 oz. beef broth

1 1/2 cups dry red wine (I used Burgundy)

1/2 tsp. dried basil leaves

2 medium zucchini, cut in 1/4 inch slices

1 medium green pepper, seeded and chopped

3 tbl chopped fresh parsley

2 cups medium shell noodles

lots of grated Parmesan

I prepped the veggies, herbs, and meat first, so that I could just have everything ready when I needed it:

1. In large pot (I used a dutch oven), saute sausage until lightly browned. Drain and discard fat:

2. Add onions and garlic. Saute until onions are limp:

3. Stir in tomatoes, breaking them up.

4. Add broth, wine, and basil, then simmer for 30 minutes. I wasn’t paying attention and put some of the parsley in, too, but I caught myself before dumping it all in there. (About half-way through this step is also the point when I decided it was too wine-y for my tastes, and added some chicken broth):

5. Add the zucchini, green pepper, and (now) the parsley, and simmer for 15 minutes more. At about this time I would also start getting your shell noodles going. You can either do them separately in either water or chicken broth, or you can just throw them in with the soup during the last 12 minutes or so – I prefer to do them separately:

6. Finally, spoon into bowls and top with lots of Parmesan cheese (this is the best part, really):

It was delicious, and I’ve been mawing it down for 3 days straight now. By the third day everything was a little too mushy so I ended up straining out the broth, making a new batch of noodles and just eating it as a very simple pasta soup (again topped with lots of Parmesan, of course).

In retrospect the only things I might do differently are use half-wine/half-chicken-broth from the get-go next time (instead of the full 1 1/2 cups wine) and then keep the noodles separate and spoon them into each individual bowl, instead of dumping them all into the soup pot – that way the soup can maintain its integrity a little longer since the noodles are the first thing to get mushiest.

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