Italian Sausage Orzo Soup is a hearty, vegetable-loaded soup with super flavorful Italian-seasoned sausage and lots of orzo pasta. It’s lightly creamy and completely comforting on chilly evenings, without sending your healthy eating plan off the rails.
One of the things I love about soup is that it’s such a vegetable-friendly dish: almost no matter the soup, it’s easy to add — sneak, even, if you have vegetable avoiders in your household — lots of vegetables without making anyone feel like they’ve gone rabbit for the winter.
Italian Sausage Orzo Soup is no exception.
Even though no vegetables appear in the name of the recipe (sneaky!), there are loads within, including onions, carrots, celery, zucchini, tomatoes, and leafy spinach greens.
The vegetables serve dual purpose, releasing both their flavorful essences and nutrition into the soup, while hanging out quietly in the background of the soup’s final texture. And a vegetable-heavy soup helps us feel great about our healthier eating goals.
This soup gets its complex flavors by building them in layers, one by one. It doesn’t add a lot of extra time, and the result is very worth it.
First, you brown the sausage and let it render its fat. As a side note, I found a lovely Italian-seasoned chicken sausage this weekend at Whole Foods, which was quite delicious in the tortellini soup I cooked up last night.
So, if you’re cutting down on red meat and pork, know that there are good options out there for meat lovers.
Next — and I love this part — deglaze the pot with a generous pour of red wine. For a few moments there, the heady fragrance of sausage and wine will make you want to stop right there and go at it with a fork. But don’t, lol. The soup is worth waiting for.
Remember to use a wine that you like to drink. Not top shelf, but good quality. Or, if you don’t like the taste of wine, like me, keep a bottle of something decent in your pantry, just for this purpose (no “cooking wine,” please).
Then, saute the aromatic vegetables, and set the assembled soup to a simmer.
It’s all such a lovely, orderly process, that even if you’re cooking averse, there’s a symmetry to soup-making that’s both relaxing and energizing.
I’m an avid home cook, and I love creating all kinds of dishes, but soup is a comfort zone: on evenings when I’m tired, or just plain out of ideas, I reach automatically for the soup pot.
By the end of it all, the day’s tensions have slipped away, and I feel content and accomplished. I don’t know the reason, but homemade soup does that to you.
I think it’s also worth noting that Italian Sausage Orzo Soup is just beautiful in the bowl. It’s a very chefy thing to quote the oft-used adage, “You eat with your eyes first,” but there’s no denying the human response that is strongly attracted to foods we find visually appealing.
I would argue that we actually eat with our noses first — who doesn’t swoon at the scent of coffee brewing or breakfast sizzling, even as we are still rubbing the sleepies from our eyes. But, no need to split hairs.
Food is visceral and tightly tied to memory, place, and emotions. We’re hard-wired react to food, good or bad, like nothing else.
Whether your an eyes or a nose person, this is a soup you’ll be proud to serve, and happy to dig into.
Italian Sausage Orzo Soup
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 ounces mild Italian sausage (remove from casings if using links)
- 1/4 cup red wine,
- 1/2 red onion, diced
- 1 leek, chopped (white and light green parts only)
- 1/2 cup chopped carrots, about 1 medium
- 1/2 cup diced celery, about 2 ribs
- 1 small zucchini, chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon Italian herb blend
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt or seasoned salt
- 14 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 3/4 cup dried orzo pasta
- 1 cup fresh spinach leaves, sliced chiffonade
- 1/4 cup half-and-half
- grated Parmigiano Reggiano, for garnish
- flat-leaf Italian parsley, chopped, for garnish
- Heat the oil in a 4 to 5 quart Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, until shimmering. Crumble the sausage into the pot, and saute, breaking up clumps, until browned (about 5 minutes). Pour in a splash of wine, and deglaze the pan.
- Add the onions, leeks, carrots, celery, zucchini, and garlic to the pot. Cook until softened, about 8 minutes.
- Stir in the remaining wine, tomato paste, herbs, and salt and stir until the wine reduces/gets absorbed into the mixture.
- Add the can of diced tomatoes with its liquids, and the chicken broth. Increase heat to bring the soup to a light boil, then reduce to medium-low to maintain a simmer. Cover partially with a lid, and cook for 15 minutes.
- While the soup simmers, prepare the orzo in a small pot, according to package directions. Drain, and add to soup.
- Add the spinach leaves and dairy, and mix well. The spinach slivers will quickly wilt, as they should.
- Top the soup with a sprinkling of the grated cheese and parsley.
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