Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup

After a full day working on the podcast recently, I looked up and saw it was 5:00, and I hadn’t done the first thing to get dinner on. All day I had in the back of my mind I would grill salmon, so I knew I should get a couple of filets out of the freezer to thaw. But I never even got that far. And in the meantime, the weather turned breezy and rainy, so grilling was not an attractive option.

My husband and I were hosting a gathering of about dozen people the following night and my plan was to bake homemade pizzas for that group. I had a pound of Italian sausage in the refrigerator, a portion of which I would use for pizza. So why not kill two birds with one stone and cook the entire pound, reserve some for pizza night, and use the rest in…something….for dinner this night. But what would that something be?

Since the weather outside had turned from grill-friendly to chilly-damp, I thought soup would be just the thing. The first soup of the fall! With Italian sausage as the base, I began thinking of what else I needed to make soup. Onions, celery, and carrots, of course. I had plenty of onions on hand, and just enough of the other two. There was half a carton of beef broth in the fridge that I needed to either use or freeze, so I grabbed that. Canned diced tomatoes–check. And something to bulk up the soup and make it more substantial and filling. I remembered the half pound of dry lentils in the cupboard and thought that would do the trick and not take too long to cook.

You can hear the rest on the Indiana Home Cooks Podcast BONUS track, and see the recipe, and step-by-step pictures, below.

The idea is, this is soup, and soup can be a template for whatever meat, vegetables, beans/pasta/noodles, broth, and seasonings you like. If you don’t have Italian sausage on hand, but there’s a pound of ground beef in your freezer, use that, and bump up the seasonings. The great thing about Italian sausage it is highly seasoned and makes for a nice shortcut in soup. Ground beef or chicken as a base will require more imagination on seasonings, but go with what you like. Experiment and taste as you go. You can always add more herbs and seasonings but you can’t take them out!

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Italian Sausage & Lentil Soup 

Makes 6 servings

 

  • 1/2 pound Italian sausage (sweet or hot)*
  • 2 cups diced vegetables (equal parts onion, celery, and carrots)
  • 1 14-oz can diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 pound dry lentils OR 2 cans of beans—kidney, cannellini, red, or black (If using canned beans, rinse and drain before adding to soup)
  • Broth (beef, chicken, or vegetable)
  • 1 tsp dried sage
  • Kosher salt & pepper to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

If sausage is in links, slice through the casings and remove sausage to crumble and brown (medium to med-low heat) in a large soup pot. Once browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside. Leave fat rendered from sausage in the pot and return to med-low heat. Add the onions, celery, and carrots, stir and let them begin cooking. After about a minute, put the lid on the pot and allow vegetables to sweat about 5 minutes. Stir occasionally, scraping up any bits of meat from the bottom of the pan. The sweating process will help loosen the stuck-on bits. You can also add a bit of the broth at this point if you need more liquid to do the job. 

After vegetables have cooked about 5 minutes, add the tomatoes, lentils or canned beans, and the cooked sausage. Pour in enough broth to cover all ingredients by an inch or so. If you need to add water to bring up the level of liquid, that’s fine. Add the sage, stir gently, cover and cook on med-low until soup comes up to a simmer. Then reduce heat to low, TASTE, and add salt and pepper as desired. Allow to simmer about an hour. The lentils should cook through and even begin to break down a bit. Garnish with parsley and serve with crusty bread or corn bread. 

*NOTE: Most Italian sausage comes in links. If you want larger chunks of sausage in the soup, cook the links, intact, and then slice them before returning to pot. And if you prefer a meatier soup, then by all means, use up to 1 pound of sausage. 

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A potato masher helps crumble the sausage.
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Lots of flavor stuck in the pot after browning the meat.
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Equal portions of celery, carrots, onions.
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After sweating the veggies, the stuck on bits have loosened.
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A little broth and light scraping gets all that meat flavor into the soup.
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Everything else in the pot. Cover with broth and cook!

 

Home Cooks Improv

My husband and I recently attended a concert performed by the Brubeck Brothers Jazz Quartet. It was swingin’ and be-bopin’ for sure. And it happened to be during the week I was putting together the newest podcast episode with my friend and guest Stephanie Hainje. Listening back to the interview, conducted over wine, caprese salad, and a fresh loaf of my sourdough bread, I realized that our discussion had the free-wheeling feel of a improvisational jazz jam session.

Well…that might be overstating it a tad….But we had a blast sharing our summer cooking experiences, tips, and ideas. It was our farewell to summer, and hello to fall. Enjoy the show (just hit the play button above) and here’s one of the recipes Stephanie is cooking this fall–Roasted Red Pepper Soup. It comes from houseofyumm.com.

You can see more of what Stephanie is cooking on her Instagram page @destinysdishes.

And speaking of fall soups, and improvisation, I performed a kitchen improv tonight for dinner. Italian Sausage and Lentil Soup. I’ll have the details soon, and a BONUS TRACK of the podcast to talk you through the recipe. Stay tuned!

Soup’s On! With Katy

We are talking soup on this edition of the Indiana Home Cooks podcast. Please check it out and hear how much fun Katy and I had in the kitchen! She showed me her family’s favorite Italian Sausage Minestrone. It’s from the Taste of Home website. Remember, substitute your favorite beans if you don’t like the white beans called for. Katy uses dark red kidney beans. They look much prettier, in our opinion!

Katy’s Italian Sausage Minestrone

Many years ago, I subscribed to the Taste of Home magazine. My recipe file has several recipes clipped from that publication. I no longer subscribe to any food magazines, although I have considered signing up for Bon Appetit or Food & Wine. For now, my food magazine browsing is confined to the waiting room at the doctor or dentist office. If I see something that looks good, I whip out my phone and take a picture of it.

It really steams me when someone rips out the recipe!

Here is the process for my chicken stock, using bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs. First I browned the thighs for a few minutes in a little oil in a heated stockpot. Here they are after browning:

Here is the bottom of the pot after browning the thighs, before and after de-glazing. That is, deglaze the pan by adding a little water, allow to cook a few minutes while scrapping up the bits from the bottom of the pot. :

 

That is the beginning of your chicken stock. Add everything else back to the pot–onion, celery, and half a lemon (if you have one), an extra chicken breast, salt & pepper, oh, and there’s a bay leaf in there! Cover this with more water and bring to a simmer:

After about an hour of simmering, turn off the heat, remove the meat to a cutting board and let it cool until you can handle it. Remove all the meat, throw away the bones & skin, drain the broth and use for soup, gravy, sauce, or freeze it for later. By browning the thighs first, you give your broth extra flavor and a little extra richness. Enjoy!