When my wife was pregnant with our firstborn, her number one craving was soup. I suppose as far as pregnancy cravings go it was pretty innocuous. So for close to six months I made a pot of soup every week. According to her, I got pretty good at it.
This is my favorite one that I make. I had made it a handful of times before I stumbled on the secret that takes it to the next level: cream and cinnamon. I had made it one day and had some leftover cream in the fridge, so decided to add it at the last minute. I ate three bowls of it that night. (I’ll tell you about the cinnamon later.)
So here’s the recipe, given as always with very little professionalism.
2 Quarts homemade chicken stock (recipe here)
5 links hot Italian sausage, cooked and sliced into circles
1 pound cremini mushrooms
1 bell pepper
1 can stewed tomatoes
8 cloves of garlic, minced
Handful of basil leaves
2 Tbsp dried oregano
2 dashes of cinnamon
1 cup heavy cream
20 oz cheese tortellini
Salt and pepper to taste
Cut up all veggies: dice the bell pepper and onion, chop mushrooms to preferred size, cut the zucchini and carrots lengthwise then chop. Chiffonade the basil. Put all veggies in a large crockpot. Add herbs, garlic, sausage, salt, pepper, and tomatoes. Mix thoroughly. Slowly add the chicken stock; it should fill up the crock pot to within about an inch of the top.
Cook in crock pot on high for six hours.
In the last 20 minutes of cooking time, add the cream and cinnamon; stir well.
Prepare tortellini separately according to package directions.
To serve: put tortellini in bowl, then ladle soup over top.
Why do you add cinnamon?
A few years back I was listening to The Splendid Kitchen on NPR and someone mentioned that traditional Italian cooks used cinnamon, nutmeg, and other warming spices in their cooking. Since then I’ve done the same, and it really does add an extra layer to your cooking. It is especially prevalent (in a great way) in this soup.
Do I have to use cremini mushrooms?
No. I know that often your mushroom options are very limited, so just use whatever fresh mushrooms you can find.
Do I have to use homemade chicken stock?
Of course not. Use the store-bought stuff if you need to. But homemade will always be better.
How should I cook the sausage?
Personally, I like to grill the sausage links. Usually I’ll throw them on while I’m grilling something for another meal and just keep the cooked sausages in the fridge for a couple days until I’m ready to make the soup. I’ll cook them in a skillet if the weather doesn’t allow for grilling. You could also use bulk sausage and just brown it in a skillet. For me, part of the goodness of this soup is its heartiness; I like the big pieces of sausage, zucchini, and mushrooms.
Can this be cooked on the stove top?
Absolutely. If you don’t want to use a crockpot or don’t have time (or a crockpot, for that matter), cook it on the stove top. Just simmer it for two hours or so. And if you don’t have a crockpot or slow cooker, you should buy one the first chance you get. When I was in college my grandma gave me a crockpot and I thought it was a ridiculous thing for me to own. It was not. Crockpots and slow cookers are great.