Who doesn’t love a big hunk of lasagna with melty cheese oozing from its soft pasta layers? Little chunks of sausage and meatballs hidden among the ricotta and mozerella waiting to be discovered and dug out like tiny treasures in a red sauce filled landscape flavered by oregano and garlic?
Sadly, devouring all that lasagna goodness requires unbottoning one’s pants and taking a long winter nap followed by a guilt filled morning and a long, joyless trip to the gym. Is it really worth it?
My longing for all that is craveworthy about lasagna and my desire not to feel guilty or gluttonous about consuming such a rich meal has led me to search out viable alternatives. I will be honest. I was skeptical at first about this soup recipe that I was finally able to find on the food network website. How could one recreate the flavors, decadent feeling and tastes in a soup that is far less caloric than its inspiration? I decided it was worth a try.
As you have probably already suspected, this soup recipe delivers on all counts: melty cheese from the fresh ricotta dollops, creamy and tomatoey sauce, chunky noodles and bits of italian spiced meat. If you are feeling extra hungry, make some garlic bread to dip in your bowl. This soup makes a comforting and somewhat guilt free meal.
I changed up some parts of the recipe but included the link to the original if you want to check it out. http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/food-network-kitchen/lasagna-soup-2268968. The recipe for the Ricotta cheese is a combination of a few from my research mixed up with my memory of a recipe that I once had from a friend of mine. Unfortunately, I cannot find my original copy but I think I came pretty close in recreating it. Make the Ricotta a day or a few hours in advance.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium sized onion, chopped
2 sweet Italian sausages, casings removed
2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
1 15 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped basil
1 parmesan rind or /13 cup grated parmesan cheese
8 oz. lasagna noodles, broken into pieces (about 10 noodles)
1/4 cup whole milk
Ricotta cheese (see following recipe)
optional: red pepper flakes and extra basil for garnish
Heat olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring until onions soften, about 4 minutes. Add the sausage, garlic and oregano. Cook, stirring and breaking up the sausage with a spoon until the sausage is browned and cooked through. Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring until darkened, about 2 minutes.
Add the chicken broth, tomatoes, parmesan rind ( wait to add the cheese, if using grated) and 1 cup water, cover and bring to a simmer. Uncover and cook until slightly reduced , about 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil water in a large pot and add the lasagna noodles. Cook according to package directions. Drain and add to soup. Add milk, parmesan (if using grated) and basil. Simmer for about 1 minute. Divide the soup among bowls and top with small dollops of Ricotta cheese.
8 cups whole milk ( I use Garelick brand)
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
3 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
Line a large strainer with 4 layers of cheese cloth being sure that it hangs over the sides about an inch or two. Place the strainer over a large bowl.
In a large, heavy pot slowly bring milk, cream and salt to a rolling boil. Stir it occasionally to prevent scorching. Add the lemon juice, then reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring continuously, until the mixture curdles. This takes about 2 minutes.
Using a slotted spoon, scoop out the curds and place them in the strainer lined with cheese cloth. Let the cheese drain for at least and hour. Use the cheese immediately or place it in a covered container in the refrigerator. It will keep for about 2 days.
*You can use the liquid from the cheese, called whey in all types of ways. It’s protein rich. Use it in smoothies and bread recipes instead of milk or water.
**This cheese tastes delicious when served with salty crackers and topped with honey.