Back 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
- 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
- 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.
- Add kale. Stir, cover, and simmer until tender, about 5 minutes. Sprinkle each bowl with a bit of mozzarella just before serving.
- 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.
- The fennel is key to reproducing the flavor of Bertucci’s original: don’t skip it!
- 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.