Sausage and Kale Lasagna Soup
It’s Friday, and I’m gonna tell you a story about the time I was hungover in Colombia and ate delicious lasagna. I’m excited. (If you’re not, feel free to skip to the recipe. Whateva.)
A little backstory: My sophomore year of college, I accompanied my bestie Fifi and her mother to Cartagena on their post-Christmas vacay. We stayed with friends of their family in a drop-dead gorgeous house/palace in the center of the city, and I could wax poetic about the city’s magic and how we really took advantage of the local food scene and had an enriching cultural experience…
But that would be a lie.
As you may or may not know, the Colombians like to PARTAY, and our hosts were no exception. They partied. Hard. I’m talking most of the day and alllll night. I still can’t fully wrap my head around the Colombians’ fiesta prowess. I just remember being mesmerized by their beauty, rapid-fire Spanish, and ability to drink a terrifying libation called “fire water” like it was actual water. They also appeared to be vampires, as they did not require sleep.
20-year-old Selena tried her best to keep up with the perfectly bronzed Joneses, but even with her suitcase full of too small bikinis and can-do attitude, she fell short. To this day, I don’t think I’ve ever had a worse hangover (or humidity ‘fro) than I did for those five ridiculous days in 2008. It was actually rather impressive. I’d show you pictures, but I’m too embarrassed, which says a lot. (I have a very high shame threshold.)
Anyhoo, on the last day of our vacation, Fifi’s mother decided we needed to get some “culture” and dragged her poor, dehydrated charges to The Palace of the Inquisition. The museum was inside a fortress that was one of the Spanish Inquisition’s torture headquarters. For what seemed like hours, our tour guide—a very tiny old man with a surprisingly high voice—delightedly regaled us with gruesome stories while showing off various torture devices. Needless to say, this was not a fun hungover activity, and Fifi and I were easily the worst audience of all time. We refused to take off our sunglasses, reeked of the aforementioned fire water, and at one point I tried to lean against a wall that turned out to be a partition dangling from the ceiling, nearly destroying several priceless historical artifacts as I went crashing to the ground. Bad, Selena.
After dissolving into a juvenile fit of uncontrollable laughter when Inquisition man launched into his description of the “stretching table” (“Thees is de streeeetching table. Here they tie da peeeeples up and streeetch dem. Four ropes for da womens, 5 for da mens—one for da penis!), we excused ourselves to get some air. Once outside, it was clear that we couldn’t possibly return to the museum without sustenance. Girlfriends needed less torture stories and more food, stat.
For one reason or another, we thought a very fancy Italian restaurant down the block was the right choice. It was 11am, and after perusing the extensive menu, I ordered a Pellegrino, a Diet coke, a gingerale, and the lasagna, as classy ladies do.
All I can say is DEAR GOD. That lasagna. ‘Twas heaven. Is it bad that the most memorable food experience I had in Colombia was a slab of cheesy pasta and meat sauce? Probably, but oh well. [Insert Spanish version of “c’est la vie.”] I still think about that “special” meal often, and I swear that almost ten years later it’s the reason I crave lasagna when I’ve had a little too much fun.
The problem with being hung and craving lasagna is two-fold. 1.) Traditional lasagna is a hot mess of calories, fat, and scariness that actually makes you feel shittier after eating it, and 2.) it takes some serious time and patience to assemble and cook. No bueno.
Enter: Sausage and Kale Lasagna soup. The hungover lazy (wo)man’s healthy solution to a lasagna craving!
I’ve been making some version of this soup for years now, and I’m pumped to finally share its wonders with all of you. The one-pot recipe delivers all the badass, comforting flavors of lasagna (Noodles! Meaty tomato sauce! Melting cheese!) without the gut-busting consequences or major time commitment. Plus, the lightened up ingredient list—which includes lean turkey sausage, zucchini, mushrooms, brown rice lasagna noodles, plenty of nutrient-dense kale, and a responsible amount of cheese—leaves you feeling simultaneously satisfied and well-nourished. Joy of joys!! Better still, the whole shebang comes together in about 40 minutes, and it’s absolutely impossible to screw up. Cross my heart.
In other great news, this soup can easily be modified to suit your personal tastes and what you have on hand. I really LOVE the texture of naturally gluten-free brown rice lasagna noodles, but if you don’t (or can’t find them), sub any whole grain noodles you like. Experiment with different types of sausage, and feel free to go heavier on the cheese if you’re feeling indulgent, or leave it out if you don’t do dairy. Vegetarians can ditch the sausage and add extra zucchini and/or mushrooms, and don’t be afraid to replace the baby kale with your favorite greens. Curly or lacinato kale, spinach, and even Swiss chard would all be excellent options. You. Do. You.
Yes, I love lasagna soup when I’m under the proverbial weather, but it’s also a great go-to winter meal for both busy weeknights and casual entertaining. Just add wine, salad, and maybe some crusty bread, and have yourself a little dinner party. Cooking for one or two? Excellent! Lefotvers keep deliciously for 3-4 days in the fridge and are perfect for sassy desk lunching. Sometimes I even add some soup to a small skillet and poach an egg or two in it for breakfast. Highly recommend.
Happy weekending, friends!
Sausage and Kale Lasagna Soup: (Serves 4 generously)
1½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
½ medium yellow onion, minced
4 ounces baby Bella or cremini mushrooms, halved, then thinly sliced crosswise
3 large garlic cloves, minced
½ pound sweet Italian turkey sausage, casings removed
1 medium zucchini, diced
1½ tablespoons tomato paste
¼ cup dry red wine
1 28-ounce can crushed fire roasted tomatoes (Yes, you can used regular crushed tomatoes if you can’t find fire roasted.)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper (optional)
3½ cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
4 ounces no-boil brown rice lasagna noodles (or whole grain lasagna noodles of your choice), broken 1”-2” pieces
3 packed cups baby kale, roughly chopped
½ cup ricotta cheese
½ cup grated/shredded mozzarella cheese (I like fresh mozzarella, but you do you.)
Thinly sliced fresh basil
Preparing your Sausage and Kale Lasagna Soup:
-Heat the olive oil in a medium Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the onion, mushrooms, and garlic. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the onions are soft and translucent, and the mushrooms have released most of their liquid.
-Add the sausage to the pan and cook, breaking the meat up into smaller pieces with a spatula, until no longer pink. (About 4-5 minutes.)
-Add the zucchini and tomato paste and cook for 1 minute, just to mellow the acidity of the tomato paste. Add the red wine and cook for a minute or so until the liquid has evaporated. (We’re deglazing here, people, so be sure to scrape up any delicious browned bits from the bottom of the pan.)
-Stir in the crushed tomatoes, oregano, crushed red pepper (if using), and vegetable broth.
-Bring to a boil, then lower to a simmer and add the lasagna noodles.
-Cover and cook for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are al dente. Add the kale to the soup. (It will seem like a lot, but it’s going to cook down, I promise.)
-Cook for 1-2 minutes, just until the kale has wilted. (If your soup is thicker than you’d like, feel free to thin it with a little extra vegetable broth.) Taste and season with salt and pepper if needed.
-Ladle the soup into bowls and top each bowl with 2 tablespoons ricotta, 2 tablespoons mozzarella (or more if you want to get crazy) and plenty of fresh basil. Serve immediately.
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