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Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1 1/2 pounds Italian sausage (bulk or with casings removed)
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoons hot pepper flakes
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 can (28 oz) diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 6 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 8 oz. fusilli pasta
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped fresh basil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 oz. ricotta cheese
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Pinch freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Directions:

1. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add sausage and sauté, breaking up with the back of a wooden spoon, until no longer pink, about 5 minutes. Drain any excess fat. Add onions and sauté until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and hot pepper flakes; sauté for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and sauté until paste turns a rusty brown, about 5 minutes.

2. Add tomatoes with juice, stock, and bay leaves; bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for about 30 minutes to blend the flavors. Add pasta, increase heat to medium-high and boil until tender to the bite, about 8 minutes. Discard the bay leaves. Stir in basil and season with salt and black pepper to taste.

3. In a small bowl, combine ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and black pepper.

4. Divide ricotta cheese mixture evenly among heated bowls. Sprinkle with mozzarella and top with soup. Serves 6.


My comments: this recipe comes from a former co-worker who made it every year for our company Soup Day. Absolutely delicious. But, for me, this recipe serves only as a guide. For instance, when I made this soup today, I only had one pound of medium spice pork sausage, rotini pasta, and no fresh basil or ricotta cheese. Still delicious. Don’t let the specifics of a recipe keep you from some experimentation. Within reason, of course. Substituting different non- Italian spices will change the whole complexion of the intended lasagna flavor. But have fun – cooking shouldn’t be a drudgery.

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clip-art-pot-potato-soup-clipart-1It’s cold again and instead of whining (at least verbally), I’m going to make soup. We love soup year round, but there is something about cold, blustery days…soup is just the comfort food I need to get through this stretch of “when will spring arrive and stay?!” Oh wait – this is how spring arrives…in Iowa. And yes, I’m grateful I don’t live in Minnesota right now.

On to my Baked Potato Soup recipe…I wish I was making it as I’m blogging. Such cool pictures of each step, my fingers beautifully manicured, showing the wonderful progression from raw potato to creamy goodness with perfect garnish. Alas – not happening today. Plus, I’d have to go get a manicure. I don’t even have a picture of the finished product because I haven’t made it yet.

You will need potatoes, butter, onion, flour, chicken broth, water, instant mashed potatoes, salt, pepper, basil, thyme, half-and-half, cheddar cheese, bacon and green onions.

I’m going to give you the recipe below, but I have a few tweaks I’ve made to the original through the years. One, you do not have to bake the potatoes in the oven. I love a good oven-baked potato, but for this recipe, you’re going to scoop out the contents and toss in the soup anyway…just use the microwave. Makes the construction of this soup much, much faster…I’d say you can have this on the table, or into your mouth, in 30 minutes, start to finish.

Two, you can make this recipe or you can swap out a few ingredients for low-carb, low-fat alternatives. The butter can be olive oil, the chicken broth can be low-salt, the half-and-half can be 2% milk, and the cheddar cheese can be…never mind, you have to use cheddar cheese. Though I will allow you to use turkey bacon, absolutely do not use Bac-Os instead of bacon. Absolutely do not. It’s against every known bacon rule.

Third, the seasonings are standard. Adjust to your own preference. We keep the salt to one teaspoon until we taste it at the end. We up the black pepper and even add a little red pepper because we like kick. Be careful with the basil and thyme – too much more than what I have listed with alter the flavor dramatically.

Fourth, the last three ingredients are optional – just for garnish. Feel free to leave off the cheese, bacon and green onions, if you want. But don’t complain to me if your “Loaded Baked Potato” soup tastes like plain old potato soup. Those garnishes make it special. And you deserve special…because it darn cold outside and cheese + bacon = comfort.

Lastly, you may have noticed I have no serving size, number of servings or calorie content. I will not tell you how large your portion size should be…that’s all on you. Which means I don’t know how many people this will serve – maybe you’ll eat the whole pot. And calorie content? Who really cares? It’s comfort food. Calorie content only brings guilt and I’m all about letting that go.

Forgot one thing – use a large spoon. Grab a little bit of potato chunk, bacon, cheese and onion in that first bite. Creamy, smoky goodness. Happy slurping.

Loaded Baked Potato Soup

 

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