In a world where monumental decisions are made every day, choosing which recipes to include on this blog and in my weekly newspaper column ranks pretty low on the relevance scale. Yet I deliberate long and hard on this!
What will she want to eat? Which recipes might he not merely read, but also cook? Do they prefer more dinner to breakfast recipes? Chicken again? What about dessert?
Often, it is a conversation around our family dinner table that cements this decision. I recently prepared the following soup recipe for the first time in a long while, and my two sons raved. When cooking for a family, oohs and aahs are the sort of response every parent hopes for but seldom receives.
As a kid, I never thought twice about moaning, “Ick…fish for dinner…again?” As a mom, I later realized that it never ever occurred to me to say, “Hey Mom, thanks for cooking dinner for me every single night!” I have since thanked her…and have also grown to love fish. : )
So I am sharing this soup in hopes that, if you cook it, you will receive the same sort of pat on the back that I got. The recipe is delicious as written, yet is flexible, too. If you don’t have zucchini, substitute green beans. For a gluten-free option, omit the fresh tortellini and use a can of your favorite beans instead. Alter the herbs based on what you have on hand. A minor tweak is sometimes all it takes to make dinner a success for everyone around the table.
The last time I made this soup, I used goat sausage—which I had never before tried–from Lancaster Central Market’s Linden Dale Farm. For those who may have an opportunity to try, it was incredibly lean and absolutely delicious.
Yields 8 servings.
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed (may substitute sausage of choice)
- 1 cup chopped onion (about half a large; I often use red)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 5 cups reduced sodium beef broth (plus extra for thinning leftovers, if needed)
- 1/2 cup red wine (a delicious addition, but may substitute extra broth)
- 1 (14.5-ounce) can petite diced tomatoes, with juice
- 1 1/2 cups thinly sliced carrots
- 1 (8-ounce) can tomato sauce
- 2 teaspoons minced, fresh thyme (or 3/4 teaspoon dried)
- 1 1/2 cups sliced zucchini (about 1/2-inch thick; halve or quarter slices according to preference)
- 8 ounces fresh tortellini pasta (I like cheese-filled; see notes)
- 1 (15-ounce) can garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained (see notes)
- 1/4 cup loosely packed chopped fresh basil (may substitute fresh parsley or add 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning with the thyme)
- Parmesan cheese for topping
- In a 5-quart soup pot or Dutch oven, brown the sausage over medium heat, breaking it up as it cooks. Remove the sausage to a plate and drain the excess grease from the pot, reserving about one tablespoon of the drippings.
- Over medium heat, sauté the onion in the drippings until just soft. Add the garlic, and sauté for 30 seconds or until fragrant.
- Stir in the five cups beef broth, wine, tomatoes with juice, carrots, tomato sauce, thyme, and reserved sausage. Bring to a boil. Immediately reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes.
- Stir in zucchini and beans. Simmer on low, partially covered, for another 20 minutes, adding tortellini during the final 10 minutes (see notes). You want the zucchini to be just tender, not mushy. Remove from the heat and stir in the fresh basil.
- Check for seasonings. Depending on type of broth and sausage used, you may not need added salt. The last time I prepared this soup, I used a 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt and a 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper.
- Sprinkle individual servings with Parmesan cheese and enjoy!
- I like to cook the tortellini separately and add to the soup as served. This satisfies those avoiding carbs and gluten. Also, if there are leftovers, the pasta won’t continue to absorb the remaining broth. For ease--and one less pot to wash--you may certainly add directly to the soup, as described in the instructions above. Simply have some extra broth on hand to thin the leftovers, if desired.
- As for the beans, they are a nice addition whether using the tortellini or not. If including the pasta, you may be satisfied with one cup. Any white bean or kidney bean works well. I recommend the whole can when serving without the tortellini.