Lasagna Soup

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Here in Ct. we’re having what has been predicted as “the Blizzard of the Century”, although at the half-way-point it seems to have lost some of its strength, at least where I live. The snow is no longer falling, but there is a lot of it out there.  On such a day as this I’m making soup for dinner.  That should come as no surprise, as my mind and taste buds turn to a good hot soup on a cold and wintery day, as many of you well know.

Lasagna Soup

Lasagna Soup

In my opinion there is no  better way to keep warm than with a bowl of steamy, hot soup!

Within the past few days two different recipes for Lasagna Soup have come to my attention, so I feel that I was destined to make this soup.  It’s so nice when you decide on the spur of the moment to make something and find everything that’s needed right in your refrigerator or cupboard.  Lucky me, since cars are forbidden on the roads, no trips to the grocery store are allowed.

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In a bowl of this soup, you will find everything you love about lasagna….sausage, lasagna noodles, marinara and cheese.   It’s filling, easy to make, and hearty.  Everything you want in a soup and perfect for a cold winter’s night.  It’s also family friendly–kids will love it.  The dollop of cheese on top really makes it.  You can use regular Italian sausage, sweet or spicy, or chicken sausage, any of which will give it great flavor.

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Two other benefits of this soup;  there are fewer calories than eating “for real” lasagna, and it’s all made in one pot.

LASAGNA SOUP

Yield:  Makes about 8 servings

Ingredients:

For the soup:

  • cooking sprayIMG_9049
  • 14 oz.- 1 lb. Italian sausage, pork or chicken, casings removed
  • 1/2 a large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  •  4 Tbsp. fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 cups low-sodium, fat free chicken broth
  • 2  1/2 cups water
  • 2 cups jarred marinara sauce
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh black pepper
  • 6 oz. broken lasagna noodles, regular, whole wheat, or gluten free

For topping:

  • 6 Tbsp. part skim shredded mozzarella cheese
  • 1/2 cup part skim ricotta cheese
  • 3 Tbsp. parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
  • basil leaves for garnish, if desired

Directions:

1.  Heat a large soup pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, spray with cooking spray and add the sausage.  Cook until browned, breaking it up as it cooks with a wooden spoon, about 4 to 5 minutes.

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2.  Add the chopped onion and crushed garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes.

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3.  Add the broth, water, marinara sauce, parsley, bay leaves and black pepper.  Bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer about 30 minutes.

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4.  Add the broken lasagna noodles and cook uncovered according the package directions.

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While noodles cook, make topping:

In a medium bowl, combine the ricotta, parmesan, and parsley and stir to mix well.

To serve:  Ladle soup in bowls, and top each serving with 2 Tbsp. ricotta cheese mixture, some mozzarella, and fresh basil on top.

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SOURCE:  adapted from  Skinny Taste

Here’s  a selection of some other easy, healthy soup recipes that are in the recipe index:

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Pizzazzy Sausage Crescent Sandwich

Pizzazzy  Sausage Crescent Sandwich

Pizzazzy Sausage Crescent Sandwich

This sandwich is part pizza, and part sandwich, thus the name.  It contains a sausage filling nestled inside a crescent dough pocket.

I came across the recipe in a book that is published by Pillsbury called Pillsbury Christmas 2011.  I think they put out an edition every year for the Holidays.  All the recipes contained in it use a Pillsbury product in some way.  Crescent roll dough is extremely popular as a basis for what seemed like “hundreds” of recipes.  This is just one of them that I thought sounded good and looked like it would be easy to make.   I was correct on one count;  they are very tasty and can be eaten with the hands or a knife and fork.  While they are not difficult to make, working with perforated crescent dough, that needs to be pinched together can be a bit fiddly.  I never seem to be successful at keeping it all together.  Even though mine did not turn out looking as perfect as the picture in the book, we enjoyed them non-the-less with a bowl of soup on a very cold evening.

Pizzazzy Crescent Sandwich with hot soup.

Pizzazzy Crescent Sandwich with hot soup.

PIZZAZZY SAUSAGE CRESCENT SANDWICH

Yield:   Make 8

Crescent Rolls provide the dough for this filled sandwich.

Crescent Rolls provide the dough for this filled sandwich.

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
  • 1/2 cup chopped bell pepper
  • 1/3 cup chopped onion
  • 1 jar pizza sauce
  • 2 cans refrigerated Crescent Rolls
  • 4 slices mozzarella cheese, each halved crosswise

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 375*F.  In a skillet, cook the sausage, chopped pepper and onion until the pork is no longer pink and the vegetables are tender.  Drain.  Stir in 3 Tablespoons pizza sauce.  Allow to cool slightly.

2.  Unroll crescent dough.  Make 8 rectangles, pinching seams together to seal.

3.  Put about 2 – 3 tablespoons of sausage mixture at one end of each rectangle.

Place filling on one end of dough.

Place filling on one end of dough.

Take each 1/2 slice of cheese and fold it in half again.  Place it on top of the sausage mixture.

Top with a square of mozzarella cheese.

Top with a square of mozzarella cheese.

Fold the dough over the filling, and press the edges with a fork to seal.

Fold dough over filling and press edges to seal.

Fold dough over filling and press edges to seal.

4.  Place the sandwiches on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake 15 – 18 minutes till golden brown.  Serve with additional warmed  pizza sauce on the side.

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SOURCE:  Pillsbury Christmas 2011

Tuscan Sausage Soup with Shell Pasta and White Beans

Tuscan Sausage Soup  with Shell Pasta and White Beans.

Tuscan Sausage Soup with Shell Pasta and White Beans.

I’ve shared my views previously on the many shapes of pasta and how some shapes are better suited for one kind of dish while other shapes have their own perfect niche in your repertoire of recipes.  One of my absolute favorites to use in soups is shell pasta.  The reason seems obvious–they hold the broth!  Just like a spoon they carry some of the yummy flavor-laden broth to your mouth.

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Anyway, when I first saw this recipe for Tuscan Sausage Soup, packed with “conchiglie”, I was drawn to it.  Conchiglie is the Italian word for shell, so I felt as though it was talking to me.  It also includes white cannellini beans and spinach and is seasoned with garlic, onion and basil.  All the flavors you would expect in a rustic Italian soup such as this one.

The recipe makes a large amount of soup, and can be easily doubled  to feed a hungry crowd, or freeze some for a later date.  I made the recipe as I found it except for using frozen spinach instead of fresh. You could also use kale if you wish.   This is a recipe you need to have in your back pocket for when colder weather arrives and you want something warm and hearty to feed your family.

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TUSCAN SAUSAGE SOUP WITH SHELL PASTA AND WHITE BEANS

YIELD:   6 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 pound Italian sausage, bulk or links.  If using links, remove casings.

    Gather together all the ingredients.

    Gather together all the ingredients.

  • 2 carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 6 cups chicken broth, low sodium preferred
  • 1  14.5 oz. can tomatoes, diced with juice
  • 1  15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1  1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 8  oz. shell pasta, whole wheat, preferred
  • 6 oz. fresh spinach, or 1 pkg. frozen chopped spinach, well drained
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • grated Parmesan cheese for topping

Directions:

1.  Remove casings from sausage if using links.   Brown over medium-high heat in a large stock pot.  Crumble as you brown it.

Brown and crumble the sausage

Brown and crumble the sausage

2.  Add carrots, onion and garlic;  sauté until tender and starting to get a bit golden, about 7 minutes.

Add in the carrots, onion, and garlic.

Add in the carrots, onion, and garlic.

3.  Add chicken broth, tomatoes, beans, pasta and basil.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, pasta, beans, and basil.

Add chicken broth, tomatoes, pasta, beans, and basil.

Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and continue cooking until pasta becomes a bit tender, about 7 minutes.

4.  Stir in spinach and cook until it is just wilted.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.

5.  Serve hot garnished with grated Parmesan cheese, if desired.

Here it is.  Looking delicious and tasting just as good as it looks.

Here it is. Looking delicious and tasting just as good as it looks.

SOURCE:   A Couple in the Kitchen

Italian Sausage, Orecchetti, and Broccoli Rabe

Italian Sausage, Oreccietti, and Broccoli Rabe.

Italian Sausage, Oreccietti, and Broccoli Rabe.

Last week was  crazy busy.  All of a sudden it seems everything cranked up leaving me wishing for the quiet days of a month ago when all I had to do was sit outside and read, sip iced tea, and dream of meal plans and menus.  Well, it was almost like that!

Anyway, I feel like I’m in over my head with a mother-in-law just in the hospital for surgery,  trying to keep Dad well fed, two birthdays, back to back, each requiring a cake,  and a husband out several evenings a week and needing an early dinner.  Plus keeping up with my dance lessons and classes.  Whew!

I’m not handling this with the ease and grace you’ve come to expect of me.  Quit laughing.  I mean it.  I can be graceful sometimes.  OK, fine.  I’m handling it with a glass of wine in my hand and complaining loudly.

But once in a while I do plan ahead, and this dish is one of my fall-back-on meals for such times.  It makes a fairly large quantity, enough to freeze a portion for another time, or enough to share, which is what I did, so I could send a nourishing meal to Dad.  It doesn’t take very long to make, and you know you’re eating a filling and healthy meal. It also reheats well in the microwave, for when people are coming and going and need to eat at different times.

All the ingredients getting cozy together to make a great meal.

All the ingredients getting cozy together make a great meal.

SAUSAGE, ORCCHIETTE, AND BROCCOLI RABE

Yield:   6 – 8 servings

Ingredients

  • 1 ( 16 oz. ) package orcchiette pastaIMG_5156
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 pound bulk or link Italian sausage ( if using link sausage, remove casings)
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2  1/2 cups chicken broth
  • 1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 bunch broccoli rabe, trimmed of tough stems,  (substitute broccoli if you must)
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1  1/2 cups grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1/4 tsp. black pepper

Directions:

1.  Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil over high heat.  Add the pasta, and cook until al dente,  8 to 10 minutes;  drain.

2.  Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Stir in the Italian sausage until crumbly and no longer pink, about 5 minutes.

Sausage crumbled and brown, add in minced garlic.

Sausage crumbled and brown, add in minced garlic.

3.  Stir in the garlic, and continue cooking until the sausage begins to brown, about 5 minutes more.  Pour off the excess grease, then pour in the chicken broth and red pepper flakes.

Chicken broth added--no pepper flakes for us.

Chicken broth added–no pepper flakes for us.

Bring to a boil over high heat, then add the broccoli rabe, and cover.  Cook until the broccoli rabe is tender, about 4 minutes.

Broccoli rabe added.

Broccoli rabe added.

4.  When the broccoli rabe is done, stir in the butter, Parmesan cheese, salt and pepper until the meat sauce has thickened.  Toss with the pasta and serve with more cheese to grate at the table.

The light broth, butter and cheese sauce makes a nice change.

The light broth, butter and cheese sauce makes a nice change.

Served with tomato salad.  Pretty plate!

Served with tomato salad. Pretty plate!

SOURCE:   Allrecipes.com

Italian Sausage Soup with Tortellini

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup.

Italian Sausage and Tortellini Soup.

I would love to travel one day to Italy and totally absorb the culture, and especially the foods.  My preference would be to visit the small towns and villages and experience life as the Italians do. I could imagine stopping for lunch at a trottoria, sitting outside at a small table on a terrace and enjoying a special soup with some wonderful crusty bread and cheese.   This is the soup I could imagine having in that kind of setting.

For anyone not familiar with the pasta called tortellini, they are crescent shaped and filled with meat or cheese.  You can purchase them in most large supermarkets as fresh pasta in a refrigerated case or dried and shelf stable in the pasta isle.  I like to keep a package of the dried variety on hand to throw into soups or casseroles, because they provide interest and extra substance, just as they do in this soup.

A hearty bowl of goodness.

A hearty bowl of goodness.

The book I took this recipe from has been around for a long time;  from Pillsbury, ” Hearty Soups and Breads Cookbook”,  1985.  The first time I made this soup we fell in love with it, and it has been in my repertoire of well-loved recipes ever since.  It is very hearty with lots of vegetables and the blend of seasonings makes a well-flavored soup.  If you like a spicy soup, use a hot Italian sausage, instead of the mild variety.  The recipe makes a large amount, about 8 servings, but it freezes well, so its good to make and freeze some for a later meal.

ITALIAN SAUSAGE SOUP WITH TORTELLINI

YIELD:  8 SERVINGS

INGREDIENT LIST:

  • 1 lb. Italian sausage, hot or mild

    All the ingredients.

    All the ingredients.

  • 1 cup coarsely chopped onions
  • 2 garlic cloves, sliced
  • 5 cups beef broth
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine or water
  • 1  14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
  • 8  oz. can tomato sauce
  • 2 medium carrots, sliced
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1  medium zucchini, sliced
  • 8  oz. frozen, fresh, or dried, tortellini (or very small ravioli)
  • 3 Tablespoons chopped fresh parsley.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese for serving

1.  If sausage comes in casing,  remove casing.  In 5-quart Dutch oven, brown sausage.  Remove sausage from Dutch oven; drain, reserving 1 Tablespoon drippings in the Dutch oven.

Brown sausage and remove from pan.

Brown sausage and remove from pan.

2.  Saute onions and garlic in reserved drippings until onion is tender.

Saute the onions, till soft.

Saute the onions, till soft.

Add beef broth, water, wine, tomatoes, carrots, basil, oregano, tomato sauce and sausage.  Bring to a boil.  Reduce heat; simmer with lid tipped,  30 minutes.

Add the liquids, vegetables and seasonings.

Add the liquids, vegetables and seasonings.

3.  Stir in zucchini, tortellini and parsley.  Simmer another 35 – 40 minutes until tortellini are tender.

Add zucchini and tortellini.

Add zucchini and tortellini.

4.  To serve, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Serve with grated Parmesan cheese.

Make this soup.  You'll be glad you did.

Make this soup. You’ll be glad you did.

SOURCE:    Hearty Soups and Breads,   Pillsbury, 1985

Stuffed Cubanelle Peppers, Italian Style

Stuffed Cubanelle Peppers and Rigatoni

One day about a year or so ago I was watching Lidia’s Kitchen on Public Television, and on that day she made several dishes all featuring cubanelle peppers.  One of those dishes was the stuffed peppers I have for you here.  Although I did not take notes as I watched I remembered basically what she did.  I must point out that this is my adaptation of her recipe since I did not get exact amounts of ingredients.  Given the fact that these peppers are readily available at this time of year, I tend to make this when they are abundant.

Cubanelle peppers, also known as Italian frying peppers, are not what you usually think of when you want to make stuffed peppers.  Usually the bell pepper is what comes to mind.  In a previous post I presented my recipe for Homestyle Stuffed Peppers, using bell peppers,and promised then that I would tell you of my other recipe for stuffed peppers.  So this is it.  I like these particularly well because the skins are very thin, and the flesh surprisingly meaty.;  they also bake in their sauce in about 90 minutes. I like to serve them with a pasta; one shaped to hold the sauce well.  In this case I used a ribbed rigatoni.  A tossed salad completed the meal.  Oh, yes, a glass of red wine, too.

INGREDIENTS 

SERVINGS:   6

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 nicely shaped cubanelle peppers, seeds and ribs removed (do not choose peppers that are bent and gnarly )
  • 1 pound bulk Italian sausage, mild, or hot;  your preference
  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 1 egg
  • 1 small onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove garlic, finely diced
  • 1/4 cup seasoned fine bread crumbs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 large jar prepared spaghetti sauce or home made marinara sauce

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

1.  Prepare the peppers:  cut off tops, remove bulk of seeds and carefully remove the ribs with your fingers, taking care not to crack or break the pepper.  In the bottom of each pepper, cut a small hole.  This lets the meat juices escape and the sauce to enter.

2.  Prepare the meat filling:  In a large bowl, combine the sausage, ground beef, egg,bread crumbs, minced onion and garlic.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.

3.  Using a tablespoon, put meat filling into the peppers, pushing down gently with the spoon or tapping the pepper gently on the counter .  Take care not to pack the meat too tightly.  It needs room to expand so the filling will be  tender.  If you have meat filling left over after stuffing the peppers, form it into small meat balls.  These can be tucked in around the peppers.

4.  Spray a baking dish with non-stick spray; one that is large enough to hold the peppers and the sauce.  Pour enough sauce in the dish to cover the bottom.  Lay the stuffed peppers on the sauce (and any meatballs).

    

Pour the remaining sauce over all.

5.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 hour and 1/2.

The smell of these cooking is so wonderful it will make you hungry.  In the last half hour of cooking time, boil water and cook pasta.

Serve with the sauce spooned over the pasta with grated Parmesano-Reggiano cheese on top.

SOURCE:   adapted from a recipe by Lidia Bastianich

Italian Style Stuffed Zucchini

At this point in the summer season there is an abundance of zucchini, with many gardeners looking for ways to prepare it, or friends and neighbors to share with.  I am fortunate in being a neighbor to a gardener, and he is kind in sharing his over-flow with us. Soooo, zucchini is on the menu!  I spent some time on a recent afternoon browsing through cookbooks looking for some different ways to prepare it. I had a secondary reason to look at recipes; my husband and I are starting a low-carbohydrate eating plan, and so low-carb. recipes was the second objective.  Zucchini fits the bill on this count:  low calorie and low carbohydrate.  I reasoned that by stuffing it with a meat mixture, I could maintain that low carbohydrate profile.

Italian Style Stuffed Zucchini

My search turned up a recipe for meatballs using Italian sausage and ground pork. Since I did not have any ground pork readily available, I substituted ground turkey instead and paired it with hot Italian sausage.  I mixed up the whole recipe which was more than what was needed to stuff my zucchini, so I formed the  remainder into meatballs and froze them, ready for another dish in the future.  Once I had the zucchini stuffed, I put them into a baking dish, poured some of my fresh tomato marinara sauce over them and baked till the squash was tender. The final step was to sprinkle with mozzarella cheese, let it melt in the hot oven, and serve this dish with a salad.

On a more personal note,  my motivation for starting a low-carbohydrate diet is obviously to loose a few pounds.   I’m clearly not overweight, but there are a few extra bulges here and there, and since  I am planning on competing in November in a Ballroom Dance Competition,  the time to begin a weight loss program is now when there are so many vegetables available.  I have followed a low carbohydrate plan in the past and it has proven to be a good one for me,  because once I go a few days without carbs, I no longer have a desire for them and I am perfectly satisfied with all the other foods I can have.   After about two weeks of eating like this you can start to add carbs back into your diet slowly, in small amounts so you do not feel totally deprived.  My goal is to lose 5 pounds.  I’ll keep you posted on how I do.

ITALIAN STYLE STUFFED ZUCCHINI

SERVES   4

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 medium sized zucchini, halved lengthwise.   (If you use large zucchini, you will need to pre bake them a little in advance of stuffing them.
  • 1 Tablespoon olive oil, divided
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • 2 large shallots, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup part-skim ricotta cheese  (This helps keep the meat mixture moist)
  • 1/4 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup panko breadcrumbs
  • 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 8 ounces lean ground pork, or ground turkey
  • 2 ( 4 oz. ) links hot Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 large jar prepared spaghetti sauce
  • 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese

1.  Prepare a shallow baking dish by spraying with non-stick spray.   Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Pour a small amount of spaghetti sauce in the baking dish as a base for the zucchini.

2.  Heat 1 teaspoon olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat;  swirl to coat.  Add garlic and shallots to pan; sauté  3 minutes or until shallots are softened, stirring frequently .

3.  Combine shallot mixture, ricotta, and next 8 ingredients (through egg) in a medium bowl.

4.  Prepare zucchini for filling by creating a “boat”;  i.e., scoop out seeds and some of the flesh.  I used a melon-baller, and  it was easy to do.  Leave enough flesh, so zucchini will support itself, and maintain its shape.

5.  Fill each zucchini half with a generous portion of the meat filling.  Arrange in baking dish, and pour marinara sauce over the top.  If you have extra meat filling, either make more zucchini, or freeze for later use.

6.  Cover with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.  Pierce zucchini for doneness: they should pierce easily and be tender.

7.  Remove foil, sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.  Return to hot oven just to melt the cheese.

I found that the juices from the zucchini and meat added to the volume of sauce,  so I think this dish would go well with some pasta to put all that sauce over.   If I were eating carbohydrates now, that’s what I would do. 😦    Instead we had this dish with a  spinach salad, and it was very satisfying.

SOURCE:  adapted from a  recipe from Cooking Light Annual, 2008