I made Italian Soup for one of last year's SOJ, and I'm sure I didn't use all the same ingredients this year. But I was too lazy to go back and see what I did, so I just handled this one as I saw fit.
I didn't have any chicken Italian sausage this time. I had shopped at Walmart, and they don't have the kind I like, so I just figured I'd make some with my handy Kitchen Aid meat grinder and a portion of my boneless skinless chicken thighs.
I ran the meat through the coarse-sized grinder, like I always do, and figured about a pound and a quarter would be enough. I stirred in pinches of Italian Seasoning (Penzy's of course!), cayenne pepper, red pepper flakes, dried basil, black pepper, salt, and garlic powder. I made the mixture into balls and fried them up in a non-stick skillet with a little oil. I didn't worry about cooking them all the way through, since they would be going into the soup to finish cooking.
Meanwhile I cut up half an onion and 2 cloves of garlic. When the meat was finished, I used the hot oily skillet to sauté the onions until they were lightly browned. I added the minced garlic and cooked only until it was fragrant, about a minute. Then they went into my broth.
Here is my broth: A can of S&W petite cut canned tomatoes and a half can of tomato paste, with chicken broth to thin it to how I like it. Whenever I open a can of tomato past to get a spoon of the red glop, I scoop out the rest of the can in spoonfuls onto plastic wrap and freeze them. When they are frozen, I drop the whole thing, plastic wrap and all into a ziplock baggie and store it in the freezer. Tomato paste whenever I need it!
This whole way of cooking, with cans and pre-made stuff may seem like cheating sometimes, but honestly, the Soups of January are about everything to be kind to the harried cook and the over-fed family!
Meanwhile I was cooking up one of our family's favorite starches: gnocchi. I'll take a pile of gnocchi over noodles any day! They only take a few minutes to simmer done, and I had them in a separate pan, ready to add at the finish.
I cut up a zucchini and boiled it into the soup until crisp-tender, and then I added the Italian meatballs and more Italian seasoning. A couple spoonfuls of leftover canned corn also went in. The gnocchi was last into the pot, and then I tasted it. It seemed to lack a certain zest. I decided a couple splashes of balsamic vinegar and a squirt of Worcestershire sauce would cure that, and it did.
This soup was absolutely delicious! Unfortunately, I am sure it won't win the favorite soup of the week poll because my husband isn't particularly fond of tomato-based dishes. But I like it, and I know it is very healthful, so it gets my vote!
Life is an adventure, and face it, food is a big part of life. Very good food, very bad food, and even mundane, boring food has something interesting embedded in it that can be pried out with a good opener.