I hadn’t planned to do another recipe post so soon, but today’s weather rather seemed to demand it. As I sit here, the temperature is hovering somewhere around freezing, and rain is falling at a very steady pace. I had a salad for lunch (with fresh avocado—yum!), but had to warm up with some hot Earl Grey afterwards. It got me thinking about the many great cold-weather foods out there. Among my favorites are soups of various kinds. If you’ve ever made soup from scratch, you know that it can be a lengthy but immensely rewarding project. Sautéing onions, boiling broth, and copiously seasoning your handiwork yields a delicious meal. Canned soup just can’t compare.
One of the best soups I have ever made was a lasagna soup. I initially got the recipe from the Food Network. After making the recipe as-written a few times, I started to make some modifications. Below is my version. Some of the changes I’ve made are purely my preference; others make the recipe a little bit simpler to prepare (for instance, I swapped out the sausage for precooked frozen meatballs).
Note: I recommend using fresh herbs if at all possible. If not, dried will do just fine. Be sure to taste the broth a few times before serving to be sure the flavor of the herbs has come through.
Danielle’s Lasagna Soup
1 tbsp. olive oil
½ medium white onion
2 cloves finely chopped garlic
8 oz. pasta (I actually like to use shells or other bite-sized pasta rather than broken lasagna noodles, as the original recipe calls for; it’s a bit easier to eat that way.)
4 c. low-sodium chicken broth
15 oz. crushed tomatoes (It’s great if you’re able to find the kind with basil added in, just for extra flavor!)
1 c. precooked frozen meatballs (Market Pantry makes a surprisingly good meatball!)
1 c. shredded Italian-blend cheese (I LOVE Kraft’s 5-Cheese Italian blend for this recipe. In a pinch, mozzarella or parmesan will work just fine, too.)
¼ c. half-and-half (If you’re counting calories, you can swap this out for fat-free half-and-half; be aware that it does lose a bit of flavor when you make this substitution, though.)
½ c. ricotta cheese
Chop one-half of a medium white onion into fine pieces. Finely chop two cloves of garlic. Add the onion and garlic to a large saucepan. Add at least one tablespoon of oregano, basil, and parsley (base this on your tolerance for flavor). Pour olive oil over the mixture and turn the stovetop to high heat. Sauté the onion, garlic, and spices until the onions and garlic are soft. Turn heat to low.
In a separate pan, cook the pasta. Drain and set aside.
Add chicken broth to the pan of onion, garlic, and spices. Turn heat to high and bring back to a boil. Once the broth is boiling, add the crushed tomatoes. Reduce heat. Taste the mixture at this point and re-season if desired.
Add the frozen meatballs to the soup. If you would prefer small pieces to whole meatballs, microwave the meatballs for thirty seconds and then chop them before adding them to the soup.
Add pasta to the soup. (Make sure it’s fully cooked before you do this. Don’t make the mistake of letting pasta or rice cook IN your broth. It will continue to soak up the liquid and expand until you have more of a mush than a soup. I realize this seems like common sense, but I made this mistake more than once in my early days of cooking my own meals.)
Cook on medium heat for twenty minutes. Give the soup a final taste and add additional seasonings if needed.
When you are ready to serve the soup, reduce heat to low and add the half-and-half. Please note: the soup will begin to form a film on top and crust to the pan once the dairy products are added, so be sure you’re ready to eat.
Mix the shredded cheese into the soup. Stir well.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with the ricotta cheese. (Don’t skimp on the ricotta!) Enjoy!
This soup is hearty enough to stand alone as a meal, but is also great with a fresh baguette or garlic bread. Bon appétit, and stay cozy out there!