The classic taste of Italian sausage and pepper sandwich – in a bowl! The key is using good quality Italian sausages, and deeply browning them to bring lots of flavour to the soup. Removing the sausage meat from the casing before cooking gives more surface area to caramelize, as well as a more pleasing texture.
I used mild Italian sausage with fennel that I buy from my favourite Italian market. Lucky me, they’re made in-house! One of my absolute favourite sausages, they’re packed with flavour and really quite lean. Many times sausages can be quite fatty, as well as salty, and if this is the case with your sausage, drain some of the excess fat after cooking, and use a light hand with the salt.
If you’re familiar with the sausage & pepper sandwich, you’re going to love this soup – and if you’re not, it’ll probably make you want to run out to the closest Italian-type deli around to try one! Do be sure to use fennel in the recipe. If you can’t find Italian fennel sausage, you can add some crushed fennel seeds. They really do add a punch of flavour to the soup.
Years ago when I lived in Vancouver, I used to make the trek from the west end to a little Italian joint on Commercial Drive – just for their sausage & pepper sandwich. This soup reminds me of that place, and the taste of that awesome sandwich.
Normally, I would’ve uses red bell peppers for a recipe like this, but when I spotted the longer and juicier shepherd peppers at the market, I knew they would also do the job quite nicely.
Are you seeing that colour…?? Part of me wanted to toss in something green, but I held back. So striking with the reds and pops of orange from the carrots, I didn’t want to disturb the colour palette. If I had chosen to do so, I would’ve served it with a small handful of arugula. Placed either in the bottom of the bowl with the soup ladled over to slightly wilt it, or as a crown of freshness, added it as a top garnish.
- 3 links (approx. 500 grams) mild Italian sausage with fennel
- 1 medium onion, diced (approx. 1 1/2 cups diced)
- 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into 1” pieces (approx 2 cups)
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced (approx. 1 cup diced)
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 cup canned tomatoes, drained and chopped (use canned cherry tomatoes if you can find them)
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- Put a large, heavy bottomed saucepan on the stove - but don’t turn it on yet.
- Cut open the sausage links and remove the filling, pinching into pieces of varying sizes, from 1/4 to 1 inch, dropping them into the cold pan as you make them. (Some very crispy bits will be good for the soup!)
- Turn the heat to medium and cook until dark golden brown, this could take 15 - 20 minutes, but don’t rush this great chance to start building flavour in the soup. Once the sausage is deeply browned drain off the oil if there’s more than a couple teaspoons.
- Add diced onion & carrots, cook stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes, to really soften the vegetables.
- Add red peppers & garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Turn heat to high, add stock, tomatoes, salt & pepper. When it comes to the boil, turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for another 10 minutes.
- *Tip: this is meant to be a thick & hearty soup. If you prefer it thinner, you can add another cup or so of stock, or even water.