All this week, The Takeout staff writer Kate Bernot is attempting to turn her favorite dishes into soup.
I just really like soup, guys. It’s one of the least-sexy foods out there, and yet almost everyone will cop to craving a bowl of chicken noodle or minestrone during these chilly months. In the winter, when temperatures here in Montana can hover in the single-digits for days, my boyfriend has to gently plead with me to please just give soup a break for awhile and maybe cook up some solid food.
This soup skepticism is nothing new. At my last job, I brought leftovers to work since the dining options in that neck of the woods were fairly barren. One day’s desk lunch happened to be the previous night’s root vegetable soup: a thick, slightly sweet pulp of caramelized parsnips, potatoes, and carrots that ended up with a colorless appearance similar to oatmeal or cardboard.
War soup, my coworker declared it, explaining that it looked like something one would eat as their Eastern Bloc country was bombarded in an air attack. I had been soup-shamed.
So how do I bring these naysayers around to the infinite joys of soup? I’ve found that serving it with great bread helps; thankfully there’s a bakery in my town that makes epi baguettes perfectly suited to the mopping-up task. I’ve also begun varying the textures in my soups, firing up the immersion blender to create everything from silky cream-based soups to chunky tomato broths.
And this winter, I’m trying a bit of a bait-and-switch: recreating some of my favorite foods in soup form. After all, what better way to convert soup skeptics than to lure them in with concoctions already based on deliciousness? Join me this week as I experiment and—hopefully—convert some of the haters.
This is my adaptation of a Better Homes & Gardens recipe that says it will make six servings but actually made enough for two hungry people plus a single lunch’s worth of leftovers.
- 3/4 lb. Italian sausage, crumbled*
- 1/2 cups chopped onion
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/2 tsp. each onion powder, dried parsley, red pepper flakes
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes, undrained
- 2 cans (8 oz.) tomato sauce
- 1 tsp. each chopped thyme and oregano
- 10 oz. lasagna noodles, broken into pieces
- 3/4 cup ricotta cheese
- Basil ribbons and grated Parmesan cheese for topping
- In a large pot, cook the first five ingredients over medium-high heat until sausage is browned. Add the chicken broth and tomatoes; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, then simmer, covered, for 20 minutes.
- Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions, breaking it into pieces first. Stir into the soup.
- Dollop a tablespoon of ricotta (or more!) into bowls, ladle in the soup. Top with Parmesan and basil.
*One improvement that I think would add some flavor to this would be to use encased Italian sausage and slice it into rings, browning the edges of the sausage.
This was overall a tasty take on tomato-and-pasta soup, and both my boyfriend and I rated it a seven in terms of its lasagna-ness. (We scored it separately, since I take this shit very seriously, dear reader.) The ricotta made it a touch thicker than standard tomato broth, while the noodles added a chewy contrast to the sweet, soft tomatoes. It featured a good sweet-savory blend of tomato and herbs, and would be even better with fresh herbs from the backyard.
What I think was missing most from a perfect lasagna recreation was the textural and Maillard goodness of crispy, cheesy casserole edges. There’s little way to recreate that in a soup, I’m afraid, though I do think browning sausage disks instead of crumbled sausage could help. Then again, that reduces its resemblance to lasagna a bit in an aesthetic way, so take your pick.
I would make this again, especially for kids, since it balances on that comforting tomato-pasta-cheese seesaw that people of any age can appreciate. It was also even better the next day, as the noodles had absorbed some of the tomato flaor.
Next up: I attempt to make a non-gross taco soup.