I was a little concerned one evening last weekend as I served this Lasagna Soup. It wasn't the soup that was the problem, it was the fact that it was the fourth time in 5 days that I was serving the same thing.
Yikes! I wondered if there'd be some kind of mutiny, or maybe a, "Let's order out" hint.
I'd been testing, tweaking and turning this recipe inside out, getting it just right. My husband's a really good sport, but I was thinking perhaps a good thing had been pushed a little too far.
I was surprised at what he said when I placed the bowl of fragrant, steaming soup in front of him that fourth time. His response? "This is the best soup you've ever made!"
And guess what? That was Saturday evening and Sunday, on the way home from church (knowing there were leftovers), he said, "I can't wait to have a bowl of that soup for lunch!".
I have to agree, it's really that good, even the fifth time around. If you like Italian food, you're going to love this easy, amazingly delicious and fun Lasagna Soup. With all the flavors of traditional lasagna, but half the work, it's definitely a winner for make-ahead weekday dinners and also a really unique treat for guests and casual dinner parties.
My humble little kitchen thinks that it's been transported to the sunny Mediterranean as this soup has wafted aromas all week reminiscent of an authentic Italian trattoria. The soup starts with a sauté of onions, garlic, spices and Italian sausage. Red wine is added to de-glaze the pan. A generous scoop of tomato paste is added, which caramelizes before the chicken broth and fire-roasted tomatoes are introduced. A 30 minute simmer melds the flavors and melts the tomatoes into the delicious, vibrantly flavored broth.
It's not lasagna though without pasta, right? But what kind of pasta do you use for lasagna soup?
I've seen regular lasagna noodles broken up and added to this type of soup, but I wanted something a bit more fun. I checked out my local market and after scouring the shelves, found Campanelle pasta. Campanelle means "bellflowers" in Italian, and like it's namesake, has fluted, petal-like edges which remind me of lasagna noodles. Their hollow center is perfect for capturing sauce (and soup!).
You could use any type of small pasta for this soup, but another one which captured my intrigue is called Mafalda. Have you ever seen it? Mafalda looks exactly like miniature lasagna noodles. I think they'd work great, but they're not as readily available in my area of the country, so I stuck with the Campanelle.
This easy Lasagna Soup will be on my menu often during the chilly months ahead (especially if Scott has anything to say about it). It's perfect for family get togethers - after all, doesn't it seem that everyone, young and old alike, enjoys Italian cuisine? The soup can be made ahead and frozen (without the pasta) making it perfect for the busy holiday season. Just pull a container of it out of the freezer in the morning, cook the pasta when you get home and a delicious dinner for family and/or friends will be quite effortless. Add a loaf of warm, crusty bread, a fresh salad and a little Pavarotti on iTunes and you're there! Bonjourno!
- 8 ounces small pasta* or broken lasagna noodles see notes below
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion diced
- 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage** see notes below
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- ½ cup 4 ounces tomato paste
- ½ cup dry red wine
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon sea salt
- 2 15- ounce cans fire-roasted canned tomatoes*** see notes below
- ½ cup chopped fresh basil
- For the topping:
- 2 cups grated fresh mozzarella
- 1 cup coarsely grated fresh parmesan cheese
- 2 tablespoons pine nuts
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh parsley
- freshly ground black pepper
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Add salt and stir. Add the noodles and return to a boil. Cook for 2 minutes less than the amount of time directed on the package instructions. Remove one noodle and try it. Pasta should be cooked but still have a little bite (al dente). If needed, cook a minute or two longer. Don't overcook. Drain well then drizzle with a few teaspoons of olive oil. Toss till the noodles are coated and set aside.
Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil in a large Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed pot over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook, stirring occasionally for 5-6 minutes or until softened. Add the Italian sausage and break into small pieces with with a metal spatula or the back of a large spoon. Add the garlic, oregano and basil. Cook until the sausage is well browned, about 15-20 minutes (if sausage is not browning well increase heat a bit.) If, after cooking, there's a lot of grease rendered, remove excess. Leave a little (about tablespoon) - it will give the soup great flavor.
Add the tomato paste and wine. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan until tomato sausage mixture is a deep dark red color and most of the wine has evaporated, about 6-8 minutes
Add the chicken broth, fire-roasted tomatoes, red pepper flakes and sea salt. Stir and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to maintain a low but steady simmer and cover with lid slightly ajar. Simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove lid and simmer for another 10 minutes. Add fresh basil.
If serving right aways add the pasta to the the soup. If making ahead, refrigerate the pasta and soup separately. Add pasta just before serving.
Combine the parmesan and mozzarella. Set aside. Toast the pine nuts in a small pan over medium heat for 3-4 minutes or until golden, stirring continuously. Remove from heat and set aside.
Serve the soup steaming hot, in shallow serving bowls. Top each serving with a generous scoop of the cheese mixture. Garnish with toasted pine nuts, fresh chopped parsley leaves and a sprinkle of freshly ground black pepper.
* I like to use Campanelle or Mafalda. Campanelle a fluted bell-shaped pasta with a ruffly edge resembling lasagna noodles. Malfada is a flat pasta that looks just like miniature lasagna noodles. If Campanelle or Mafalda is not available any small pasta will work.
** If you can't find bulk Italian sausage, just use the kind in the casings but remove the casing before cooking
*** Fire-roasted tomatoes can be found in most larger groceries near the regular diced tomatoes. If you can't find them regular canned diced tomatoes can be substituted.