Bertucci's Italian Sausage Soup

When I was in college in DC, my best friend Ilana and I used to have a standing Thursday night dinner date at a restaurant near our campus called Bertucci's.

If you've never heard of it, Bertucci's is an East Coast-based chain of Italian restaurants known for their ridiculously good freshly baked rolls and pizza. It wasn't anything out of this world, but we loved the food (and the hot waiter who always used to give us free dessert!) so it naturally become our favorite.

Ilana and I both used to order the same thing over each week, soon not even pretending to look at the menu to get something different. My go-to starter was always the Italian Sausage Soup--a simple, but hearty soup made with sausage, crushed tomatoes, spinach, and rice, topped with a generous handful of cheese.

It was savory and rich and cozy and the absolute perfect thing to warm up with at the end of a cold winter school day...

A few years ago, I found myself craving it, but since there aren't any Bertucci's restaurants in NYC, I decided to check online for a similar recipe. I was super excited to find the actual recipe for the soup posted by one of the chefs from the restaurant on an old message board. Win!

The recipe the chef posted was for a huge pot of it, so had to be adjusted to more reasonable quantities. I made it a few times, changing it up slightly depending on my tastes or what I happened to have on hand that day.

Over the years, the spinach has been swapped out for kale, which holds up better in soup than spinach, and a dash of chile flakes increases the heat to a level I prefer. I also increased the tomatoes and replaced the mozzarella with significantly more flavorful freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

But the basic soup remains--rich, brothy, savory and full of flavor--exactly like the soup I remember eating all those years ago. It's perfect for dinner on a chilly night, and the leftovers reheat beautifully for lunch the next day.

I've actually been planning to share this one with you for a few years, but as it's one that I generally crave at night, I never quite got around to photographing it until today. Sorry about the delay, but I hope you'll agree the wait was worth it.

This one just might become your new favorite winter soup.

Loved this recipe? Here are three other winters soup recipes you might like:

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Thanks so much for reading!

Italian Sausage Soup with Rice (Inspired by Bertucci's)
Serves 4-6 (Adapted from a recipe by Chef Stefano Cordova)


2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 pound hot Italian sausage, cases removed
1 yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
1 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/4 teaspoon red chile flakes (optional)
4 cups low-sodium chicken or beef broth
2 28oz cans whole plum tomatoes
1/3 cup rice (white, brown, whatever you prefer!)
4 cups chopped kale
1 cup shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (Bertucci's uses mozzarella, but I like the sharp taste of the parm. Use whichever you prefer!)
Kosher salt and black pepper, to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, breaking up in to chunks until fully browned. Add the onion, garlic, and fennel seeds, and cook 2 minutes, just until fragrant. Add the chile flakes, broth and tomatoes with their liquid. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and let simmer 40 minutes, stirring occasionally and breaking up the tomatoes with the spoon.

Add the rice and simmer an additional 15 minutes, or until rice is tender. Remove from heat and stir in the kale, stirring in until wilted from the heat of the soup. Taste and adjust seasoning with kosher salt and black pepper, as desired.

Serve in bowls topped with generous spoonfuls of shredded cheese.

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