By Jennifer Bradley FranklinIt finally feels like winter in Atlanta, and the chill in the air has me craving homemade soup (truly, I could eat soup for just about every meal and be perfectly happy). I stumbled upon this recipe for hearty Lasagna Soup on the "A Farm Girl's Dabbles," which she adapted from a recipe from 300 Sensational Soups by Carla Snyder and Meredith Deeds.
I further adapted it to make it a bit healthier, reducing the oil, draining the sausage and adding frozen spinach. I hope you’ll enjoy - it was a big hit at my house this weekend!
For the soup:
1 tsp. olive oil
1 lb. mild Italian sausage
3 c. chopped onions
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp. dried oregano
1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (or to taste)
3 T. tomato paste
1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 c. chicken stock (plus 1 or 2 c. more, if pasta absorbs too much liquid after cooking)
8 - 10 oz. frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz. mafalda, or fusilli pasta
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
For the cheesy “goo”:
8 oz. ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. chopped fresh basil leaves
1/4 tsp. salt
pinch of freshly ground pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
Prep your onions, chopping them in a uniform, medium size. I know three cups of onion sound like a lot (it ended up being two medium to large onions for me), but it really is the perfect amount for this big pot of Lasagna Soup.
Heat olive oil in a large pot, over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking into bite-sized pieces, and brown for about five minutes. Meanwhile, line a large plate with several paper towels. When sausage is browned, remove from the pot (**Do not wipe the pot clean. The residual oil in the pot will help infuse flavor into the onions.) and drain for a minute or two. Add the sausage back to the hot pot, along with the onions and cook until the onions are softened, about six minutes. NOTE: If you wanted to make a vegetarian version of this, you could omit the sausage and add other veggies instead, much like a veggie lasagna (squash, carrots, broccoli... whatever you like!).
Add garlic, oregano and red pepper flakes. Cook for one minute. NOTE: If you have used spicy Italian sausage, you'll want to adjust the amount of red pepper flakes you're adding. If using mild, the 1/2 tsp. will produce a zesty, but not spicy, soup.
Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for three or four minutes, until the mixture turns a rusty brown.
Add the fire roasted tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock. Stir to combine.
Add spinach and stir. Bring to a boil (uncovered) and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine all ingredients for "cheesy goo" topping. Occasionally, in an effort to make lasagna more healthy, I've substituted cottage cheese for ricotta. Don't be tempted to do it here (though I used reduced fat ricotta, and it was still delicious); the cottage cheese will fall apart in the soup, leaving you with unattractive curds floating around.
Stir in pasta and cook until it's just al dente. Do NOT overcook or simmer for a long time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy.
Stir in basil (fresh is best!) and season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.
To serve, ladle soup into a bowl and top with a generous scoop of the "cheesy ricotta goo" and a sprinkle of grated mozzarella. Enjoy!