This Garlicky Italian Sausage Soup Is the Most Comforting Recipe I Know

updated Mar 5, 2021
Kitchn Love Letters
Spicy Sausage and Rice Soup

This spicy sausage soup comes together quickly and tastes amazing the next day. Just be sure to use brown rice — it's key for the right texture.

Serves4 to 6

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bowl of spicy sausage and rice soup with spoon in it
Credit: Sheela Prakash

For me, comfort food isn’t just something that warms me up from the inside out, or gives my stomach that satisfyingly fuzzy feeling: It’s something that evokes good memories. As a recipe developer, I tinker with all sorts of classically comforting dishes involving cheese, carbs, cream, or a combination of all of those things. But it’s not what I crave when I’ve had a long day — or, in the name of 2020, a long year.

Like so many people, I spent the last year baking loaves upon loaves of sourdough and tackling other complicated cooking projects, but they didn’t bring me the solace I was seeking. As is often the case, the answer to my problem was much simpler.

The Simplest Recipe That Soothes Me the Most

When I was growing up, my family’s favorite pizza place wasn’t some super-authentic hole-in-the-wall: It was a place called Bertucci’s, and if you’re from Massachusetts like I am, or from anywhere in New England or the Northeast, you may be familiar with the Italian chain. We were frequent visitors, whether we were picking up takeout on a weeknight so we could bug my sister who was a hostess at the location in my town, or capping off a weekend shopping outing by sliding into a booth at the Bertucci’s inside the mall.

But after all those meals, it’s not the pizza that stands out in my memory: It’s the soup. My mom could never start a Bertucci’s meal without an order of their Italian sausage soup. It was tomato-rich, heavy on the garlic, and loaded with chunks of spicy Italian sausage and tender grains of rice. It tasted exotic to my childhood palate, and I always asked for a spoonful from her cup when I sat beside her. Soon, I got up the courage to order my own.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

My childhood continued, but the soup tradition stopped. When my mom passed away, I just didn’t have it in me to muster up memories of her with broth. It wasn’t until a couple of years ago, when I was in the process of drafting recipes for my first cookbook, Mediterranean Every Day, that I suddenly longed for that taste of my youth, my home, and of her. So I developed my take on our favorite soup as a way to remember her. And while I love each and every recipe in my book, it’s this soup that’s my favorite, because it brings me the most comfort. I’ve made pot after pot of it, and it became an almost weekly tradition throughout this pandemic.

It couldn’t be simpler to make. You start by browning large crumbles of hot Italian sausage (or sweet, if you’d rather keep the soup mild) in a Dutch oven. Then you add minced onion and garlic, and sauté the aromatics until they’re softened and fragrant. In goes chicken broth and a can of diced tomatoes, then it’s all brought to a boil. After reducing the heat to a simmer, you stir in uncooked brown rice, then let the soup simmer gently until the rice is cooked, about 35 minutes or so.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

Using brown rice is really about the only adjustment I’ve made to the original soup, or at least how I remember the soup to be. I prefer it to white rice in soups because it lends extra flavor, and holds up better, too: Brown rice won’t turn to mush when you reheat leftovers from the fridge, or if you freeze batches for future meals (which I highly suggest doing because this is a soup that has endless comfort to give).

Spicy Sausage and Rice Soup

This spicy sausage soup comes together quickly and tastes amazing the next day. Just be sure to use brown rice — it's key for the right texture.

Serves 4 to 6

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon

    extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1 pound

    uncooked hot Italian sausage, or sweet Italian sausage (chicken, turkey, orpork), casings removed if using links

  • 1

    medium yellow onion, finely chopped

  • Kosher salt

  • Freshly ground black pepper

  • 2 cloves

    garlic, minced

  • 4 cups

    low-sodium chicken broth

  • 1 (15-ounce) can

    diced tomatoes

  • 1/2 cup

    long-grain brown rice, rinsed well

  • 1/4 cup

    loosely packed chopped fresh basil leaves

  • Freshly shaved Parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, until browned and cooked through, 5 to 7 minutes.

  2. Add the onion, season with salt and pepper, and sauté until softened and translucent, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 1 minute. Pour in the chicken broth along with the tomatoes and their juices. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a simmer.

  3. Stir in the rice and continue to simmer gently, covered but with the lid slightly ajar, stirring occasionally, until the rice is tender, 35 to 40 minutes.

  4. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper, as needed. Stir in the basil and serve garnished with shaved Parmesan.

Recipe Notes

Reprinted with permission from Mediterranean Every Day © 2020 Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc. Text © 2020 Sheela Prakash Photography: Kristin Teig Photography. First Published in 2020 by The Harvard Common Press, an imprint of The Quarto Group