Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Confessions of a Soup-a-holic (and A Tuscan Inspired Soup)

Is it a childhood thing?  Or, is it because there is something comforting and totally soul satisfying about soup?  Growing up, we usually just had good old Campbell's soup and sometimes some home made vegetable soup.   Nevertheless,  I have always loved soup.  Maybe it's because it is relatively easy to make, and you can get by with one pot, and it feeds a lot of people and there are left overs. Of course, the perfect meal!  Or, it could be the simplicity and honesty that soup brings to the table.   I don't really know why or how I came to love soup so much, but I really could eat it every day.  Really.  Seriously.  Every day.

I am not a big fan of leftovers per se, but soup is the one thing I don't mind reheating and eating again and again.  Actually, home made soup gets better with a little reheating, don't  you think?  The flavors all meld together and it just tastes good - plain old good.  Just don't give it to me luke warm - I want my soup "burn your mouth" hot!

This morning, I woke up early and had soup on my mind.  Couldn't tell you why, but I did.  I knew today would be a home made soup day, just didn't know what kind.  We did a lot of running around today -  lunch with the grandsons who were out of school for a teacher in service, a foray to a new toy store that is absolutely wonderful, and then a quick stop at Trader Joe's because we were on that side of town.  One pass down the first aisle and I knew it was going to be a Tuscan inspired soup with Italian sausage in it.  Why?  Because Trader Joe's sweet Italian sausage is delicious and it is in a case in the first aisle. ( Using Italian sausage is like having little meatballs in your soup without having to make them.) I picked up a bag of baby spinach, a fresh bagguette, and a couple of other items and headed home.  A recipe was formulating in my mind.  There were some fire roasted tomatoes and red kidney beans in the pantry, some Butoni three cheese tortellini in the fridge and there are always onions and garlic, so I was good to go.

If you don't know a lot about Tuscan cuisine, it is hearty and rustic food made with seasonal ingredients grown in the region.  This is a little info I found about Tuscan food.

Tuscan cooking is characterized today by simple food without heavy sauces. Cooking is done with olive oil, which is used as salad dressing, poured over bread, and used in soups and stews. Beans are a staple. Sage, rosemary, thyme, and marjoram are popular herbs. The farmland produces olive oil, wine, wheat, and fruits. Chickens, ducks, rabbits, cows, and pigs are raised on small estates. Vegetables grown there include artichokes, asparagus, spinach, beans, and peas. There are also a great number of wild mushrooms, including porcini and morels.    www.annamariavolpi.com

Now, who can have a problem with good, wholesome rustic food - especially soup?   Not me!  Here is what you need for the soup I made today.  I don't mind saying, it was so good that we were both bordering on overeating.


1 pound Italian sausage links
1 14 ounce can fire roasted tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic minced
3 or 4 sprigs of fresh thyme (use dried if you don't have fresh)
1 14 ounce can red kidney beans, drained
4 russet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
1 6 oz. bag baby spinach
1 6 oz. package Butoni 3 cheese filled tortellini
1.5 boxes chicken stock
Extra virgin Olive Oil

Remove the casings from the Italian sausage and discard.  Cut the sausage into 1 inch pieces.  Pour one good round of olive oil in the bottom of a 5 qt. dutch oven.  Add the sausage and brown.  When sausage is about half done, add the diced onion and cook until translucent.  Add the garlic, 1 can of fire roasted tomatoes, the potato chunks, 1 can of red kidney beans and one and a half boxes of chicken stock.  Strip the leaves from the thyme stems and add to the soup.  Put the lid on the pan and let simmer about 30-40 minutes.  Next, add the tortellini and cook until done, about 15 minutes.  It will puff up and get very tender and delicious.  Add the spinach a few hands full at a time and let it wilt down, stirring to incorporate into the soup.  You are ready to serve as soon as the spinach has all been added.

I added some big shavings of fresh parmesan cheese to the top of the soup, and if there had been a parmesan rind in the refrigerator, I would have added it to the soup while it cooked.  Using a parmesan rind adds so much flavor to any soup.  Never throw away the remains of a piece of fresh parmesan!  I will tell you that I did not add one grain of salt to this soup because it did not need it.  Taste first before you add any salt!

I sliced some of the crusty bagguette and rubbed a smashed garlic clove over the slices and drizzled a little olive oil on it.  Put it in the oven at 350 until it starts to brown (watch closely).  Now, serve it with your soup and don't be shy about dipping this delicious crusty bread in the fabulously tasty broth of the soup.  I really think I could have eaten just that for my meal it was so good.  Yummmmmmmmy yum!

This is a delicious and flavorful soup that I will make again and again.  The tomatoey broth with the vegetables and creamy cheese filled tortellini was truly outstanding.  Sometimes, being a little adventurous when cooking pays off.  Hopefully, you will give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as we did.  Maybe, we could start a group for fellow soup-a-holics and just try out recipes together.  Hmmmm, note to self.

Everyday Donna

Things to Remember:

A first-rate soup is more creative than a second-rate painting.
Abraham Maslow

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