This has been such a good week. Thursday evening, Wes and I went to a Dave Ramsey book signing in Kansas City. We love Dave, and have read all of his books. We are in the middle of taking Financial Peace University, and at the signing, we won $2000! We never win anything, it was thrilling. Wes’s name was pulled out of a box, he went up on stage, and Dave handed him a big ol’ stack of hundreds. It really feels like our luck is changing, finally. We are very blessed, but sometimes doesn’t it feel like you just cannot catch a break? The last two years have been hard. I can feel my attitude starting to change, a more positive way to look at the world. And it seems like as soon as my attitude started to change, and I made an effort to change things in my life that were not working for me, good things started happening. Maybe there is some truth to the power of positive thinking after all?
Yesterday, I went with my good friend Alison to a workshop put on by Helen Dujardin of Tartelette. We spent the day in a studio talking about photography, lenses, props, styling, and I was in heaven. I have been in such a creative rut lately, it was just what I needed to push myself and to work harder on my photography and styling skills. I have been a photographer for a long time, so I know my way around a camera, but it is always worthwhile to go to events like this no matter what your skill level. I always learn something new, and take away something that is useful to me. It is so interesting to watch someone else work, and to figure out what is going on in their head as they are creating their shot. I really cannot wait to get into the kitchen and make something just to try out some of the ideas that I got from spending the day with Helen.
Every now and again, I make something that is so good that it is hard to make anything else. I have been on a huge soup kick and all I want to make is this soup. I love it. Actually, everyone at my house loves it. Lasagna is one of my absolute favorite foods in the world. I do not make it very often, it takes awhile to put together, and a long time to bake. This soup is everything I love about lasagna in a bowl. A rich tomato base, sausage, a ricotta cheese mixture that you add right before serving, and hits of fresh basil. This could easily made into a vegetarian version, and can be made in 30 minutes. I served it with a Caesar-ish salad and some sliced bread.
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 pounds sweet Italian sausage
3 cups chopped onion
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons tomato paste
1 (28-ounce) can fire roasted tomatoes
2 bay leaves
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 pound cooked fusilli noodles
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper
1 Tablespoon chopped basil
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Heat the oil in a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add the sausage (I took mine out of the casing) and brown for 5 minutes. I break mine up as I am cooking it, I do not want big chunks of sausage in my soup.
Add the onions and cook until soft.
Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
Add the tomato paste.
Let the tomato paste cook for a few minutes.
Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and chicken stock.
Whenever a soup calls for pasta, I always cook it separately. I do this because we tend to have leftovers of soup, if you add the pasta directly to the soup, the pasta gets mushy and soaks up all of the broth. If you keep it separate, you can just add the pasta to the bowl, pour reheated soup over, and it will heat the pasta through.
Bring the soup to a boil, and then turn down to a simmer. Simmer for 30 minutes. At the end, season with salt and pepper and add the basil.
While the soup is simmering, make the cheese mixture. In a small bowl, mix together the ricotta cheese, Parmesan, salt, pepper, and basil. Set aside.
When you are ready to serve your soup, add a good handful of pasta to the bottom of the bowl.
Add the soup to the bowl and add a generous spoonful of the cheese mixture to the top. Sprinkle with mozzarella cheese.
Mix it all together and get ready to be blown away by all of its deliciousness.