Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like pretending to be king of the world while standing on the edge of a giant ship yelling out at the top of my lungs, “I’m king of the world,” while sailing the Atlantic en route to hit an iceberg…wait…that’s not my life. Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like boarding a space shuttle with only one destination in mind, an asteroid. Navigating the depths of outer space, my crew and I having to drill through a massive lethal rock with hopes of saving the world…actually that’s not my life either. Sometimes I like to dream the impossible like combining two of my favorite dishes. A pasta classic and a warming soup. A comfort food meets comfort food sort of situation, can you blame me? There comes a time in everyone’s life when we have to make the difficult decision of choosing one or the other, but you know what I say to that? I say, why choose, when you can have both mashed together into one delicious, mouth watering meal? I say, why burden yourself with such a task impossible of accomplishing? The thought of having to choose only one makes me sad beyond words. We shouldn’t have to settle. We should be given the opportunity to have both, soup and lasagna. But not in the form of two separate dishes in one sitting because that sort of seems gluttonous to me. I mean come on, I’m not that crazy.
I’ll let you in on a little secret—because it’s my blog and I can do whatever I want, but also because I feel like we’re at that point in our relationship where I can be completely honest. Truth is, I’ve been sitting in front of my computer for hours. Just staring at the screen without knowing what else to write. What else to share with you this time around. My mind keeps drawing a blank and I can’t understand why. Sure music is playing and I continue to get distracted, singing out loud the songs with a microphone. I’m only kidding, it’s not really a microphone but a pen I found on my desk. I won’t, however, admit to you that I’m constantly spinning around in my chair like if I’m on a ride at an amusement park, as I yell out “Whooooo whooooo!” That totally never happened. I have the excitement of a teenager, bubbling inside my stomach, about to go on a promising first date, but I think that’s solely because of how much I’ve fallen in love with this post. Not only the recipe itself but also the images. These images I’ll classify, and will go down in my head, as my best work to date, and I’m proud of that. I can’t help but look back to where I was when I first started this blog to where I am now. A few years have passed and I’m more and more excited with each passing post. Not to mention I’m a little wiser and a little older. Let’s not talk about it.
With each new recipe I share with you, I get the sensation that we’re growing together. We’re getting to know each other (really, you’re getting to know me more than I’m getting to know you). And do you want to know something? I rather enjoy it. Sometimes I can’t contain myself and all I want to do is share my work with you just as soon as I can, much like with this recipe. This post is the first one in a really long time where I’ve wished I could work faster so that I can put it up as quickly as possible so you can enjoy it right away. I hope you do enjoy it and not only because I enjoy it but because it’s a good one. Too good, I find. But if there is one thing my mamma taught me—she actually taught me a lot of things but this one thing fits perfectly in such a scenario—it’s that you can never have too much of a good thing. Just like you can never have too much of lasagna in soup form, and that’s a fact.
You know how when you make a lasagna, you have that daunting feeling of “it’s too complicated, maybe I should give up and never attempt to make another lasagna as long as I live?” Or is that just me? Perhaps I’m overreacting, but there’s so much pressure when it comes to making and perfecting a homemade lasagna because of all the preparation that goes into it. Don’t get me started on all the layering and the long baking time. And the pressure of waiting for it to settle and cool, before slicing into it so that it doesn’t fall apart when you try to take a slice out of the baking dish. It’s a lot to handle, even for me. So I decided to throw all of that out the window and try out a lasagna soup, instead. All the awesome, kick-ass, lasagna taste we all know and love, without all the hard work associated with the classic dish. Where have you been all my life?
So we begin our saga by boiling water and cooking the noodles. Lasagna noodles to be exact, because you know.
**Tip: I like using the noodles with the curled edges because it’s a classic look that I associate with lasagna, but if all you can find is the flat edged noodles (don’t even bother, kidding), that will work too. You can also just skip the lasagna noodles altogether and go for a simple pasta cut. Whichever you prefer and whatever is easier for you.**
Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Season liberally with salt and bring back to a boil. Add the noodles and cook until tender, about 10 minutes.
**Note: You want to make sure to undercook the noodles slightly because they’ll continue to cook later on in the soup, so you don’t want them to overcook and turn into mush.**
Once the noodles are done—but not really because remember we’re undercooking them—you can carefully drain them into a colander. Make sure to use a large colander, for all picture purposes, I used that tiny one. But it’s that’s not realistic now is it. But look, what a nice picture!
Cut the noodles into thick strips and either place them in a bowl or a baking sheet, and toss them with olive oil to ensure they don’t stick together or dry out. Set the noodles off to the side until we’re ready to add them into the soup. It’s best to get this step out of the way right from the beginning so that later on when you’re absolutely starving, you’re not waiting for water to boil and noodles to cook.
Let’s now actually start making the soup because it’s about time and because I know you must be getting restless thinking, “Just show us the soup already Jonathan. We know how to boil water and cook pasta!”
Heat a large pot (I like using a dutch oven) over medium-high heat. Drizzle in the olive oil.
Add the hot Italian sausage, removed from the casings.
Use a wooden spoon to breakdown the sausage, cooking until it has browned and crisped.
Once the sausage is cooked—whatever is left, because I just know that you’re going to sneak a few forkfuls here and there because how could you not?—you can transfer the remaining sausage to a bowl.
Dice up the veggies, the onions, garlic, carrots and celery. Might as well chop it all at once to have it all ready. It makes cooking a lot easier and the soup making process fast.
Return the pot to the heat and drizzle in more olive oil.
**Note: It’s okay if the bottom of your pot is crusty and blackened, that’s all the wonderful flavor from the browned sausage. That’s all going to lift up when you cook the veggies, making the soup even more flavorful. Do not be alarmed. It’s a good thing.**
Add the onions.
And then throw in the minced garlic and give it all a big stir. Allow to cook, scraping the bottom of the pot with a wooden spoon to pick up the bits, for about 5 minutes, or until translucent and just beginning to brown.
Stir in the carrots and celery and allow to cook for a few minutes more.
Season the veggies with salt, freshly cracked black pepper and a few dried bay leaves.
**Tip: It’s important to season as you go, every step of the way. I like to season the veggies while they sauté so that it creates another layer of flavor.**
Stir everything together to ensure that the veggies and seasonings are evenly incorporated. Continue to sauté for another 5 minutes or until the carrots have softened.
Add the browned sausage back into the pot, and stir once more.
Throw in the tomato paste and crushed tomatoes.
Stir in the chicken stock and water, and bring the soup to a simmer, covered. Then uncover and allow to cook for an additional 10 minutes so that it reduces and thickens a bit.
**Tip: At this stage, you can season the soup with more salt and pepper. I always get low sodium chicken stock and no salt added tomato paste and crushed tomatoes, so that I can control the salt intake. It’s the way to do it.**
So the soup is ready. It’s simmered for a bit and the aroma is starting to get to you, right? You just want to dive in and start eating, yeah? Well, just wait a bit longer. We’re almost ready to serve. Let’s add the cooked noodles from earlier, and some—and by some I mean lots of—grated parmesan cheese, and a bit of heavy cream.
**Note: The heavy cream is completely optional in this soup. You don’t have to add it, if you don’t want to. If you’d like to make this soup healthier, then you can totally omit the cream. I find that it gives it a good texture, and balances the other flavors perfectly. It’s only a little bit of cream. It’s not like I’m adding cups and cups worth of the stuff. All things in moderation.**
And last but definitely not least, add a handful of fresh basil that you’ve run your knife through to make basil ribbons. That’s called a chiffonade, if we’re being technical and completely fancy. But we’re not fancy, so we’ll just call it basil ribbons.
Give the soup a good final stir and allow it to cook for like a minute or two so that everything gets ready. Soup ready.
The soup is now good to go. Pour it into bowls, what are you waiting for?
You know how the best part of the lasagna (well one of the best parts because, really, the entire thing is the best part) is the ricotta cheese layer? I happen to love ricotta cheese with a passion greater than life. Spread some ricotta cheese on crusty slices of bread with a drizzle of olive oil, and you can make me do anything, just as long as I get to eat it all. This is lasagna soup after all, and no lasagna would be complete without ricotta so once you’ve served the soup and you feel like you might pass out because all you want to do is devour a bowl or two, dollop a bit of ricotta cheese on top. Sprinkle with more parmesan cheese and garnish with more chopped basil and fresh parsley.
Stand back and admire. Shhhh. Don’t say anything. Let’s not ruin the moment.
I know that the traditionalists out there will be thinking, “Why mess with a good thing?” Sure lasagna is one of those classic dishes that many people know and love. To a certain degree, those skeptics are right, we shouldn’t mess with a good thing. But at the same time, it’s nice to think outside of the box sometimes. Last post we discussed the possibilities of 2014. This year we’re going to reach out of our comfort zone in the kitchen and try new things. This lasagna soup is a new thing and I whole heartedly believe that everyone (yes you) should give it a try. It tastes just like lasagna. I’m all about that.
If the idea of a warm soup filled with spicy Italian sausage, pasta, cheese and fresh basil doesn’t get to you, I don’t know what will. Perhaps the pictures in this post have convinced you to take a chance and give this recipe a try. Maybe just the name, LASAGNA SOUP, calls out to you. You should listen to that sound and respond by making a big pot of this soup right now. Don’t fight the urge to get in the kitchen and experiment. We’re in a new year, celebrating our new selves looking for new recipes. There is no time to doubt about whether we should or shouldn’t. Let’s focus on the should and the will. This lasagna soup right here, is at the top of the list. You know it is. Don’t deny it. Enjoy!
Taken and adapted from Food Network Magazine.
Sometimes you just want a big bowl of comforting soup on a cold day. What does said soup comprise of? Well, pasta for sure. Cheese is a must. And of course all the other rich flavors of lasagna, like spicy sausage. Two of my favorite dishes come together to bring you the ultimate comfort food. It’s lasagna in liquid form, and although that doesn’t sound too appealing, you’ll be changing your mind when you get that first bite. This quick and easy meal is perfect for those rainy, cold, and (snow) stormy nights when you just can’t seem to get warm.
yield: 4 to 6 servings
- 4 hot Italian sausages, removed from casings
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 yellow onion, diced
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 teaspoons freshly cracked black pepper
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 (15 ounce) can crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken stock
- 2 cups water
- ½ pound lasagna noodles
- ¼ cup parmesan cheese, plus more for sprinkling
- ¼ cup heavy cream (optional)
- ¼ cup fresh basil, chopped
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- fresh parsley, for garnish
1. Bring a large pot of cold water to a boil. Season with salt and bring back to a boil. Cook the lasagna noodles as directed on the box, but a few minutes less. You want the noodles to be semi-undercooked because they’ll continue to cook in the soup later on. Drain and toss with olive oil. Cut into strips and set aside.
2. Heat a large, heavy duty, pan over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and breakdown with a wooden spoon. Cook for about 5 to 7 minutes or until browned and crispy. Transfer to a bowl or plate and set aside. Drizzle in the olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Sauté for a few minutes, until tender and translucent. Add the carrots and celery and cook for another 5 minutes. Season with 1 teaspoon salt, 1 teaspoon black pepper, and bay leaves. Stir in the tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and water. Cover and bring to a simmer. Uncover and allow to cook for 10 minutes to slightly reduce and thicken. Season with remaining salt and black pepper.
3. Add the cooked lasagna noodles, parmesan cheese, heavy cream (if using), and basil. Stir and cook for 1 to 2 minutes so that everything combines well. Serve hot with a dollop of ricotta cheese, a sprinkling of parmesan and chopped basil and parsley for garnish. Leftovers can be stored in the fridge and rewarmed. Enjoy!