Recipe of the Week - Lasagna Soup

Lasagna SoupI first made this soup last winter and it was such a hit with the family that it's become a regular rotation. The soup really tastes like lasagna! My husband wasn't sure about it when he tried the soup alone but when you combine it with the "cheesy yum" it really pulls together and tastes like its namesake. The soup easily adapts to changes, and I've included some of my previous alterations in {} based on what I had on hand and what I could find locally at the time. I have a hard time getting my daughter to eat most meat, but have recently learned that she loves spaghetti, so this is a great way to get a little extra protein in her diet. Serve with some crusty bread for dipping, and enjoy!

For the Soup: 2 tsp. olive oil 1-1/2 lbs. Italian sausage {I used ground beef and ground pork with no ill affects on flavor} 3 c. chopped onions 4 garlic cloves, minced 2 tsp. dried oregano 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes 2 T. tomato paste 1 28-oz. can fire roasted diced tomatoes {I've used basil, oregano, garlic tomatoes; or home canned tomatoes with extra herbs} 2 bay leaves 6 c. chicken stock 8 oz. mafalda or fusilli pasta {I've used a variety of spiral and medium shells, we actually prefer the shells because they "cup" the liquid} 1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil leaves salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

for the cheesy yum: 8 oz. ricotta 1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese {Asiago works well too!} 1/4 tsp. salt pinch of freshly ground pepper

2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese {even without mozzarella, it's delicious}

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add sausage, breaking up into bite sized pieces, and brown for about 5 minutes. Add onions and cook until softened, about 6 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir well to incorporate. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, or until the tomato paste turns a rusty brown color.

Add diced tomatoes, bay leaves, and chicken stock. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Add uncooked pasta and cook until al dente. Do not over cook or let soup simmer for a long period of time at this point, as the pasta will get mushy. Stir in basil and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

While the pasta is cooking, prepare the cheesy yum. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, salt, and pepper.

To serve, place a dollop of the cheesy yum in each soup bowl, sprinkle some of the mozzarella on top and ladle the hot soup over the cheese.

Servings: 8

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