Bertucci’s Sausage Soup

Bertucci's sausage soupBack in my laboratory days on Mem Drive, when my co-workers and I felt like traveling further afield than The Sail Loft for lunch, we often ended up at Bertucci’s, home of excellent brick-oven pizza, addictive dinner rolls (hot from the oven!) and the infamous Bertucci’s Sausage Soup. I’ve eaten a lot of this soup in my day: in fact, the real battle in sitting down to lunch at Bertucci’s was in deciding between the delicious brick-oven pizza and the equally delicious sausage soup (and the extra Bertucci’s rolls you made room for when you skipped the pizza). Since I moved from Boston to New York a decade ago, I’ve often thought about trying to replicate the soup at home, but I never seemed to get around to it: that is, until yesterday.

I still had two Italian sausage links in the fridge (leftover from the package I thawed for the quinoa) that needed using up. After a busy weekend of birthday dinners and Manhattan champagne bar skipping, I couldn’t quite muster up the energy to make a frittata on a dreary, grey Sunday afternoon. Soup, however: soup seemed like just the thing, especially as it seems that both Tai & I are fighting off a bug. The pantry yielded onion, brown rice, home-canned tomatoes and tomato paste. The chest freezer offered up chicken stock and kale frozen last summer. Bertucci’s Sausage Soup: it was meant to be.

I made my version heartier than the restaurant original by choosing tomato purée over crushed tomatoes, whole-grain brown rice over white, and by increasing the amount of vegetables in relation to stock & sausage. For all those changes, it still had that fabulous Bertucci’s flavor that I remember, and it earned the coveted Tai “you-shouldn’t-serve-this-to-anyone-else” rating. Sweet, rich, savory and perfumed with fennel; topped with just enough grated mozzarella, one taste brought me right back to those lunches in Davis Square. Now if only I could duplicate Bertucci’s rolls….

Adapted from Bertucci’s Sausage Soup by Chef Stefano Cordova, Bertucci’s Italian Restaurants

Bertucci's sausage soupBertucci’s Sausage Soup


  • olive oil
  • 8 oz (about 2 links) Italian sausage, casings removed
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 pint crushed or puréed tomatoes (I used fire-roasted)
  • 1 quart stock (I used chicken)
  • 1/3 cup short-grain brown rice
  • 1 small bunch kale (about 6 oz), chopped (I used frozen)
  • salt & freshly ground pepper, to taste (I used about 1/2 tsp of salt and added a few grinds of pepper to each bowl)
  • fresh mozzarella, grated, for serving


  1. Coat a medium Dutch oven or stockpot very lightly with olive oil. Bring to a shimmer over medium-high heat. Brown the sausage, stirring only as needed, and breaking into bite-sized pieces as you stir, until nicely browned on all sides, about 5 – 10 minutes. Add onions (adding more olive oil if necessary), reduce heat and sauté onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add fennel; stir and cook for 1 minute. Add tomato paste; stir well and cook 1 minute. Add tomatoes, stock and rice. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, until rice is tender, about 40 minutes. 
  2. Add kale. Stir, cover, and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle each bowl with a bit of mozzarella just before serving.

Serves 4.

Bertucci's sausage soupOPTIONS

  1. The original Bertucci’s soup is thinner, more brothy, than my version. Chopped or crushed tomatoes will make for a slightly thinner soup that the pureéd tomatoes that I used. I also substituted spinach with kale, increased the amount of vegetables, and replaced white rice with brown.
  2. The fennel is key to reproducing the flavor of Bertucci’s original: don’t skip it!
  3. White rice will cook a lot faster than whole grain brown rice, so if you are substituting, you’ll only need to simmer the soup for about 20 minutes.


Refrigerated for up to 5 days.


Year-round, but excellent in winter.


  1. Taino Grosjean

    I can’t possibly stress enough just how good this soup was. I say “was”, because it’s gone. All gone. *sigh*

  2. Kate

    Hi Kaela,
    I’ve been enjoying your blog and thank you, but I’ve never posted before (anywhere!). I didn’t have this soup at Bertucci’s, but it looks great and I can’t wait to try it. We made sausages yesterday, so perfect timing. (Only our 2nd try, but there’s no going back!) Years ago, we had the best mussel dish we had ever had at Bertucci’s. When we came home, I tried to find it – and there it was on the Bertucci website. Mussels Caruso. It’s a white wine/clam juice base with hot cherry peppers/ garlic/ capers (Is that Rhode Island style?) It’s fab and still one of our regular favorites. If you’d like the recipe, I can send it. I do all kinds of cooking and my favorite thing is making bread(s). Have a look at the kneading conference in Maine at the end of July. It was brilliant and I think you’d love it.
    All the best.

    • Kate,

      Thanks so much for taking the time to comment! I haven’t eaten at a Bertucci’s in years, but back in the day it was one of the few “chains” (although we always considered it our own, being Boston homegrown) that served simple yet delicious food, done right. Sadly for me, the great irony of my food life is that I grew up in Gloucester, MA, the largest fishing port on the East Coast, yet I despise all forms of seafood; and while I’ve tried to like it over the years, it’s no use. Thanks for the offer of the Bertucci’s mussel dish, but I’m afraid I’ll never come around to the ‘joys’ of seafood: all the more for those of you who love it, I guess! 🙂

    • Those rolls! They are the stuff of dreams. I can never get bread as light & fluffy as I want it: either my gas oven, my whole grain flours, or (more probably) my over-aggressive Scottish kneading style. Some day….

    • Sure! Go for it. Since I always find collards a bit more strongly flavored than kale, I’d go easy on the amount at first; add some, simmer a couple of minutes, then maybe add more. But you know, if you are in love with collards, you’ll know how much you want!

  3. Cam

    There’s definitely something so satisfying and nostalgic about being able to recreat favorite foods you can’t get anymore. And food hoarding is always a sign of good food and a happy diner lol. My hubby always starts counting (anticipated) leftovers at the end of a meal and if I cook one of his faves when we have guests over he’ll tell them, “Oh, you probably won’t like this. Maybe we should serve you something else…”

    Love your stories as much as the delicious recipes.

  4. There used to be a Bertucci’s right in Davis? How funny! Now it’s all hip new places next to the old fast food places. I grew up 20 minutes north of Boston and Bertucci’s was the only restaurant in town for a long time, so I have so many memories of eating there. My favorite was always the chicken and broccoli penne.. their chicken basically tastes like straight butter. Great recreation!

    • I think the Davis Square one was the original, actually, although we more frequently went to the one in Kendall Square; back in the days when it was a “chain” of 3 or 4 restaurants!

  5. Kate

    I’ve never commented on a recipe, but I made this a couple days ago and it is AMAZING. And so easy! I use hot italian sausages and half/half fire roasted and tomato puree. I’ve got a double batch simmering right now, as I intend to live on this all week. Thanks!

    • Isn’t it good? I can take no credit, since it really is the Brilliance of Bertucci’s. But for so many recipes that tout themselves as “quick, easy & delicious!” this one really IS. I wish I had made it years ago.

      Glad you enjoyed it!

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