Right after I'd given birth to Vince, my friend, Mary, came by with a thousand gallons of sausage soup. She stored that stuff in the freezer and fridge so I had ready-made food to eat while attempting to juggle the demands of a newborn.
By the way, that's the best idea ever. If you're gonna get a new mom something, get her homemade food she can heat up and scarf down while nursing an infant to sleep. Best - idea - ever.
Anyway, ever since then, I've been in love with sausage soup. I've taken the recipe Mary gave me and stretched it out a bit to encompass my love for tomato soup. When winter rolls around, I typically make two or three batches of it. Be prepared, though. The soup will not stick around long because it's just too darn good. That being said, you can get a lot out of this hearty meal!
Tonight I made another batch since I wanted to finish up some canned beans I had handy (any will do). For those of you who want to treat yourself to a new recipe, here's what I did:
I raided my pantry for beans, tomato soup and chicken broth. There was a sale not too long ago on tomato soup and I stocked up considering tomato soup is like gold in this house. It just goes with everything. This particular chicken broth is "w/ Roasted Garlic" and adds a nice flavor to the base. Beans are in there for variety and protein, adding to the "heartiness" of the end dish.
I opened these cans and mixed them in the largest of my pots over low heat. Then I got to work with my sausage. Two family-size packages of Italian sausage: one sweet and one spicy!
While the soup base is heating up, I open both packages of sausage and begin peeling the casing off. This is easily done with a short knife. Make a quick slice down the center of the sausage and simply peel back the casing, discarding it. Before tossing the freshly peeled sausage into a pan with oil, get messy by ripping it into smaller chunks.
Once the naked sausages bits are cooking, get them brown. Don't be afraid to "overcook" them a bit. I love the caramelized taste and texture super-browned sausage gives. It offsets some of the kick that comes with the spicy variety and it's downright satisfying to chew.
While the sausage is cooking up, I take a moment to slice the canned potatoes. Feel free to use uncanned potatoes. I just find it easier to use the canned stuff, especially when I'm able to get them on sale for dirt cheap.
By the time you finish cutting up the potatoes, the sausage should be sufficiently browned. Since I like my sausage bits super small in the soup (almost like chili), I grind the ripped bits in a food processor for a few seconds before browning them again. You don't have to do that. I just like doing it because I prefer the texture smaller chunks gives the soup. Plus, it's always entertaining to see my cats scurry away in fear of the magic machine that eats what I'm sure they assume is their rightful food.
When I feel as though the sausage has browned enough, I toss it into the soup base that's been simmering in the large pot. I always start with the sweet sausage and gradually add the spicy stuff. I tend to get equal amounts of spicy vs. sweet sausage, but some brands are just more spicy than others.
At this point, I'm usually able to gauge if I'll need extra base. I decided to add an extra two cans of tomato soup and an extra can of broth to the mix while my spicy sausage was browning.
Take note of where my little handle buttons are. They typically come close to disappearing by the time I'm done adding everything. When I make batches... I go to town. :)
The rich red color you now see is a result of the extra tomato soup and the addition of spicy sausage. Already the level has risen to just under the remaining buttons. You can see how much meat, potatoes and beans are in this bad boy. I could've added an extra can or two of broth, but I really enjoy my sausage soup almost chili-like in consistency. Every bite needs to feel like I'm chewing into a burger. John likes it that way, too, so leaving the ratio of sausage and beans to broth like this works for us.
At this point I typically add a chopped white onion to the soup. Somehow, they always retain their crunchiness, even throughout storage and reheating. If I had any leftover pasta bits, I'd throw them in, too, but I didn't have any on hand tonight, so this sufficed. I did, however, add freshly grated pecorino romano cheese to the top of my bowl. That tastes magnificent with this soup.
One bowl and you'll be full for hours. It's such a hearty, delicious soup! John was so excited that I'd made another batch that he told our friend, Frank, they'd be eating lunch at our house tomorrow so they could share some! We'll happily subsist on this for lunch and dinner for days without getting tired of it. It's just so perfect for the chilly months, and I always feel as though I've gotten a great, fast meal for pennies because these batches really stretch!
So that, dear Internet, is my gift to you. A twist on a favorite given to me by my friend, Mary. Thanks, Mar!!!
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