We had 15 people coming for lunch on Saturday. They’re a great group of friends—and we get together twice a year to talk about two books that we’ve all read.
They’re a really varied bunch—teachers, a geologist, a couple of psychologists, some administrators, a librarian, a few lawyers. We all have our reading preferences. And because of our different “specialties,” I read books I wouldn’t know about otherwise. A great gift.
Each time we meet we do four things:
1. Talk about the one book we’ve read during the first hour plus.
2. Eat and catch up with each other about everything else.
3. Talk about the second book during the last hour plus.
4. Make a passionate case for a book we’d like the group to
read and discuss the next time.
Merle and I volunteered to host on Saturday—we pass this around among the group—and I decided to make two soups. That’s the other thing we’ve established—the hosts make a fairly simple main dish. Everyone else is asked to bring either a salad or a dessert.
I hate to miss any of the conversation, so I made the soups on Friday. All I needed to do, then, on the Reading Group Day was flip on the burners and stir. And pretty much stay in the conversation.
That all worked, although I did forget to add the fresh spinach to the one soup just before serving it. Grrrr. . .
Turned out to be a wild-weather day. Drills of rain and unmannerly winds, so the Lasagna Soup was perfect.
This Soup is sturdy enough to be a main dish. And it delights kids and adults alike. Plus you can up the ratio of vegetables if you want. Or switch in another kind of meat—in whatever amount you wish. This is one flexible recipe:
Makes 8 cups
Prep Time: 20 minutes, if you use a vegetable chopper or food processor
Cooking Time: 20-25 minutes
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage (I use turkey sausage for this—and whichever flavor strikes me right on the day I shop. For the Reading Group I mixed sweet Italian and tomato-basil.)
2 cups onions, chopped
2 cups carrots, diced
2 cups fresh mushrooms, sliced
2 Tbsp. garlic, minced
4 cups fat-free chicken broth
15½-oz. can Italian-style stewed tomatoes, chopped
2 8-oz. cans tomato sauce
1 cup uncooked mafalda pasta
2½ cups fresh spinach, chopped (Yeah, this is what I forgot to stir in on Reading Group Day)
1 cup provolone, or fresh mozzarella, or your choice of cheese, diced
¼ cup Parmesan cheese, grated
4 tsp. fresh basil, torn or chopped
1.Brown sausage in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir often to break up the chunks of meat.
2. Add onions and carrots. Saute 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
3. Stir in mushrooms and garlic. Saute another 3 minutes, stirring frequently.
4. Add broth, stewed tomatoes, and tomato sauce. Bring to a boil.
5. Drop in pasta and simmer until just cooked, about 10 minutes, or according to package directions.
6. Just before serving, stir in spinach and cook just until wilted.
7. Place ¼ cup cubed cheese into each serving bowl. Ladle soup over top.
8. Top with Parmesan and basil.
1. I couldn’t find bulk sausage, so I bought the long links and squeezed the meat out of the casing. It’s not hard or time-consuming.
2. I made 2 ½ times the recipe—and it worked just fine. As I said, this is one adaptable soup. You can count on it to behave well.
3. The spinach I forgot to stir in—I’m using it as the base for a salad. There’s often a way to redeem your mistakes in the kitchen.