Amalgam of autumn flavors in a quick Monday night soup

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It had been a busy weekend of cooking. So busy that by the time Monday night rolled around, I wanted something easy for a post-work dinner.

In the fridge, I spied the chicken broth I'd made the day before, plus the unused half of a butternut squash -- leftover from a new risotto recipe from Saturday. Bonus, most of it was already cut up into small cubes because I had prepped way more than the recipe needed. It was beginning to sound like soup.

What else could go in? There was half a bunch of rapini, also orphaned from the risotto project. And some chicken sausage and sweet red peppers; they wouldn't take much work. It was looking like soup indeed.

• TIPS: I like to squeeze the sausages from their casings and form them into small meat balls. The shape is more fun in a soup. But it's faster to merely cook the sausages whole then slice them into quarter-inch coins, if you prefer.

To save time and skip peeling, look for cut up butternut squash in the produce section. Cut the chunks down into smaller pieces for quicker cooking.

Monday Night Soup

Prep: 15 minutes. Cook: 20 minutes. Makes: 4 servings

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

1/2 teaspoon coarse salt

2 Italian sausage links

8 cups homemade chicken broth or 1 carton (32 ounces) low-sodium broth

2 cups butternut squash, in small cubes

2 cups tubetti pasta, or another small shape

4 or 5 stalks rapini, tough stems trimmed, coarsely chopped

2 small red peppers or 1 medium red bell pepper, in medium dice

Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup freshly grated Asiago or Parmesan cheese

Remove sausage from casings; form into small balls, about 1 inch wide. Cook in a skillet over medium heat until browned on all sides and cooked through, about 8 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add the onion; sprinkle with a pinch of salt. Cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.

Add the broth and remaining salt to the saucepan; heat to a boil. When boiling, add the squash and pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente and squash is done, about 10 minutes. Add the broccoli rabe and red pepper 1 or 2 minutes before the pasta is done.

Add the sausage balls; season with pepper and more salt, if needed. Serve the soup topped with the grated cheese.

Per serving: 544 calories, 22 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 34 mg cholesterol, 62 g carbohydrates, 32 g protein, 1,079 mg sodium, 8 g fiber