Here, Taste This: Lasagna Soup

I am seasonal eater.

Perhaps this surprises no one.

I am drawn to the drama that plays out every day on the other side of my window. Spring's freshness and hope, summer's sparkle and joy, fall's glory and longing. And winter. Winter's quiet and reflection. Each season speaks to me of different flavors, different sensations. I revel in the rhythm of it. I don't want stew in summer, and even though I could technically grill in January if I'm willing to stand in the snow, something about that turns me off.

No, winter demands soup.

And this soup, my friends, is all that is right about soup. It sticks to your ribs, thanks to the pasta, and it dances on your tongue, thanks to the Italian sausage, and it is bright with seasonal veggies. (Carrots, spinach, I'm looking at you.) Best of all, it's a one-pot meal that can go from start to finish in less than 30 minutes. Just enough time to hide some fresh mozzarella in the bottom of each dish, slice some baguette and rinse some grapes.

Then sit down to a steaming bowl of the best winter has to offer. Maybe, just maybe, you'll give thanks for January.

Lasagna Soup

1 lb. hot Italian sausage
1 cup onion, chopped
2 cups carrots, cut into coins
2 cups mushrooms, sliced
2 tbsp. garlic
4 cups chicken broth
1 14-oz. can Italian diced tomatoes
1 10-oz. can tomato sauce
1 cup mafalda pasta
4-6 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
fresh mozzarella
Parmesan cheese,
4 tsp. thinly sliced fresh basil

1. Brown sausage in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat.
2. Add onions and carrots; saute 3 minutes. Stir in mushrooms and garlic; saute another 3 minutes.
3. Add broth, tomatoes and tomato sauce; bring to a boil.
4. Drop in pasta and simmer until al dente, about 10 minutes.
5. Stir in spinach and cook until wilted, about 2 minutes.
6. Place fresh mozzarella in bottom of soup bowls and ladle hot soup on top.
7. Garnish with Parmesan and basil.

1. The easiest Italian sausage to use in recipes like this is bulk sausage, usually found near the breakfast sausage are in your local grocery store. If you're worried hot Italian sausage will be too spicy (aka you're Scandinavian), it's fine to use "sweet," or regular.
2. Mafalda pasta looks like mini lasagna noodles.(I will pause here for us all to embrace the cute.) But if you can't find it - and I can't, right now - feel free to use bowtie or even penne pasta in its place. I often use campanelle, or bellflowers, just because I think they are pretty.
3. If you can find the fresh mozzarella balls known as bocconcini, use those for this recipe. It's easy to throw three or four balls of cheese in the bottom of each soup bowl and call it good. If you can't find bocconcini, feel free to dice up any fresh mozzarella you can find. It will all melt the same, and what we're after here is easy meltability. (Totally a word.) Every bowl should have its own soft little nuggets of wonderfulness.
4. Does the price of basil in the winter bring you down? (Plus, it's not exactly seasonal, is it.) Then use a drizzle of pesto in its place. You get the same fresh herb flavor at half the cost.