My Dear “Kindred Spirit,”
I am very proudly 1/8 Italian.
My great-grandfather (Grandpa Joe) was Italian, which means my grandmother (Bema) was 1/2 Italian, making my dad 1/4 Italian, and my siblings and I all 1/8 Italian. (Let me say “Italian” a few more times…).
Sadly, this means my kids will only be 1/16 Italian. Unless… What if I marry an Italian?! Then they’d be 9/16 Italian! Hmmmm… That could work! *Wheels in brain beginning to turn…* (Do I know any Italians? How much does a plane ticket to Italy cost? I’ve always wanted to learn another language, maybe I should try Italian!)
This Italian in me doesn’t show itself much in my features. My skin is too “white,” my eyes are hazel, not brown, and even though my hair is brown, it’s very fine, not thick and curly.
So most people would never guess about the 1/8 of me that is Italian… unless they saw me in the kitchen.
That’s where the Italian in me really shows itself.
I love to cook. I’m a very messy cook, but I love to cook. You let me loose in the kitchen, stock my pantry and fridge with lots of onions, garlic, olive oil, butter, cheese, herbs, sausage, tomatoes… (Sorry, I’m drooling already…), give me some good tunes to listen to, and I’m in my happy place! (One of my many happy places, actually). Come back in a few hours – the kitchen will be an absolute disaster, but you will be in for some very yummy food!
So. The whole point to this post was to give you a soup recipe (ok… and maybe to brag just a little bit about my Italian heritage…)
This is my “basic” soup recipe. And I don’t know if it can even be considered an actual recipe. I view recipes the same way I view traffic laws: they’re a set of guidelines to be loosely followed when I feel like following them, and completely ignored when I don’t. (I didn’t just say that, did I? Ok, pause a moment, thank God that you’re not a passenger in my car, and get back to reading about soup).
So here is my set of guidelines that, if loosely followed, should produce you about 5 or 6 quarts of an amazing (gluten free, grain free, and dairy free!) Minestrone-type soup:
- 1-2 pounds sausage (we have a local meat shop that makes their own sausage, and I love getting my sausage there. As a compulsive label reader, the ingredient list for this sausage is an absolute breath of fresh air: “Pork, Salt, Sea Salt, Fennel, Black Pepper, Italian Spices (Thyme, Oregano, Marjoram, Basil & Rosemary), Paprika.” That’s it! That’s all the ingredients! And it tastes amazing. Thank you, Mr. P, for not lacing your sausage with MSG and High Fructose Corn Syrup!! Ok… Sorry… I’ll shut up… *sheepishly sliding off my high horse*)
- 1 or 2 diced onions (Every soup needs onions, sorry. This guideline should not be substituted or ignored)
- 2 to 3 quarts broth (I usually use chicken broth, but you can try whatever broth you want, as long as it’s real broth. Don’t you dare even think about using some chemical-laden, MSG-laced fake “broth” in my soup recipe! You commit such an atrocity and I will die of shame and then come back and haunt you!! Do us both a favor – save me from that death, and yourself from the awkwardness of being haunted – and just use a real broth, ok??)
- 1 small-ish head of cabbage, shredded
- 1-2 pounds of carrots, peeled and chopped (I generally just use up what I have on hand, or grab what looks to be a decent amount)
- 1 quart tomatoes (I use our own home-canned ones, but you could use store bought canned chopped tomatoes, or chop up 3 or 4 fresh tomatoes… or leave them out, if you must)
- 1 or 2 small zucchini, chopped
- 1-2 pounds (or cans) Green Beans (frozen, fresh, or canned. Whatever you like. Honestly, I usually do either the zucchini or the green beans, whichever I have on hand. Both is good, though. Or neither. Or whatever. It’s your soup.)
- Spices! Whatever you like, but at the very least Salt (preferably sea salt), pepper, basil, oregano, and parsley (I use dried, but you can definitely use fresh if you have fresh on hand)
In a large stockpot, brown the sausage. Once the sausage has given you a good coating of grease in the bottom of the pot, throw in the onions and get them sauteing too. Don’t even think about draining off any of the grease! That fat and the brown stuff sticking to the bottom of your pan is what I like to refer to as “flavor.” You don’t want to get rid of that.
You can toss in the carrots to start softening at the same time as the onions, if you feel like it. But only if you feel like it. For me, I’m usually still chopping the carrots up when the onions go in, so the carrots end up going in later, with the broth.
Once your sausage is browned and your onions are mostly soft, pour in the broth. Dump in the tomatoes. Shove the cabbage in. Toss in the carrots. Chuck the zucchini in. Add the green beans. I’m running out of verbs…
Spices. Yeah. They go in, too. I never measure. With the coarse ground sea salt I use, one or two palm fulls of that works, a good few shakes of pepper, a bunch of the other spices… I always err on the side of too much rather than too little. Have fun.
Bring it all to a boil, then turn it down a bit, and just let her cook until your vegetables are soft. Eat. Yummy! (I had a bowl of it for my breakfast this morning).
Now, if you’ll excuse me… writing this made me hungry. I’m off to heat some up for my supper.