I am one of those people who will eat soup all year-round – even when it’s the middle of summer. Maybe it’s the fact that it feels like a hug in a bowl, or maybe it’s the harmony of spices, herbs, and vegetables. Brothy, creamy, hearty, salty – I like soups of all kinds! Well, except New England clam chowder which is proof for me that cream and fish don’t belong in the same bowl. But clam-forward soups aside, I am down any day of the week for a cup of soup.
Coming up with a soup recipe sounds simple enough – broth plus vegetable plus herb etc. However, there is no limit to how many ingredients you can add, and there is certainly a finesse about achieving the right depth of flavor in each bite. It takes time for the flavor to develop and it’s not something you can usually perfect on the first try, but when you get it right, it’s heavenly.
And I feel this Italian sausage soup achieves the perfect marriage of flavors. A harmonious blend of sweet Italian sausage, Israeli couscous, tomato, and basil make each spoonful just as delectable as the last one. What I love most about this soup though, is that it tastes as if it has been passed down through generation after generation. It’s like the warm embrace of someone familiar, feeding the soul as much as it does your appetite.
What’s in this Soup:
- Italian Sausage: I rarely use pork sausage when I make myself a meal, but there are some instances where it is absolutely necessary to use pork to really hone in on that smokey, delicious flavor it brings to a recipe. Typically, I look for ground mild or sweet Italian sausage (like the kind that comes in a Jimmy Dean tube) as compared to sausage links which won’t work for this recipe (unless you want to remove them from the casing).
- Tomato Sauce: Yep, good ole-fashioned tomato sauce! Nothing fancy here, but tomato sauce has an intense umami flavor that gives depth to the soup, making it seem as though it has been simmering for hours despite the fact it’s ready in under an hour.
- Israeli Couscous: Growing up, my great grandmother used to make “pastina” soup, which is essentially a broth-based soup with little itty bitty star-shaped pasta. In honor of that memory, I used Israeli couscous, which is reminiscent of the tiny pasta I loved in her recipe. It adds a wonderful textural component to the soup and cooks in the broth to make for a flavor-rich soup! You can usually find Israeli/pearl couscous at your local grocer in the pasta or rice aisle.
- Fresh Basil: Basil is the unsung hero in this recipe that contributes to the complex flavor profile of this soup. Basil has a licorice-like flavor similar to fennel or anise, making it a great complement to Italian sausage. With its bright herbaceousness, it balances the robust flavors of tomato and chicken broth.
- Celery and Carrots: These humble vegetables are the basis of the mirepoix (the diced vegetable base for many soups and stews) for the soup. Cooking them in olive oil alongside garlic enriches the aromatic base of the soup and gives the vegetables a sweeter taste. They also add great texture, making this soup feel nice and hearty!
- Lemon: A splash of lemon to finish off the soup makes a world of difference by adding a bright acidity that counters the warm and hearty undertones from the tomatoey base. A little bit of lemon juice goes a long way and makes a noticeable difference to the flavor profile of the soup.
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth
- 2 14.5-oz cans diced tomatoes
- 1 8-oz can tomato sauce
- 2 cups of water
- 14 oz mild Italian sausage
- 2/3 cup Israel couscous (uncooked)
- 2 celery stalks (leaves included)
- 2 carrots
- 3 cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves
- 1/2 tsp dried oregano
- 1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
- juice of 1/2 lemon
- Start by heating a skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage to the skillet and cook until the meat has browned and the fat has rendered. Then, remove the skillet from the heat.
- Leave the stove on and replace the skillet with a large soup pot or dutch oven on the burner.
- Peel and thinly slice the carrots, then thinly slice the celery stalks with their leaves. Add both to the pot as well as the minced garlic, red pepper flakes, and olive oil. Sauté the vegetables over medium heat for 3-5 minutes until they are tender and the celery starts to turn translucent.
- Next, add the chicken broth, diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, and water to the pot and turn the stove to high heat. Bring the soup to a light boil.
- Then, lower the stove to medium heat, and add the sausage, basil, and oregano to the pot. Cover and simmer for 18-20 minutes.
- Next, stir the dry couscous into the soup. Cover and cook for 8 minutes, then remove the soup from the burner and finish with a squeeze of lemon.
Like most homemade soups, this soup will thicken once stored in the fridge, so I use water or chicken broth to thin it out when I reheat it.