Instant Pot Sausage and Lentil Soup (Carraba’s Copycat)

If I could pick the number one reason I love my Instant Pot Duo 60, it’s given me the confidence to try dishes I’ve never made before. I was always intimidated by lentils, but not anymore. Lentils and beans (these Charro beans are delicious!) are nearly foolproof in the Instant Pot, hearty, and very inexpensive.

I recently found myself in an airport with some time before my next flight, and headed into a Carraba’s Italian Grill for a quick bite to eat. I ordered their Sausage and Lentil Soup and immediately thought “I can make this in the Instant Pot, no problem.” Here is my copycat version of Carraba’s Sausage and Lentil Soup, and I’ll bet it cost me less to make the entire batch than I paid for one bowl at the restaurant.

Ingredients (serves 6-8):
2 slices thick cut bacon, diced
12 oz. Italian sausage, removed from casings
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 carrots, diced
3 celery stalks, diced
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
14.5 oz. can crushed tomatoes
6 cups (48 oz.) chicken broth
1 ½ cups dried lentils (270 grams)
2 tsp. Italian seasoning blend (thyme, rosemary, oregano, basil)
1 tsp. salt
½ tsp. black pepper
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
Optional garnish: fresh basil and grated Parmesan cheese

Press sauté on Instant Pot. When display reads “Hot” add diced bacon and sausage. Sauté until sausage is browned, 5-7 minutes. Add onion and garlic to Instant Pot, sauté for 2 minutes more. Add carrots, celery, diced tomatoes, crushed tomatoes, chicken broth, lentils, Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and crushed red pepper. Give it a quick stir and then close the lid. Press “manual” and set timer to 18 minutes. When the timer is done, let pressure release naturally before opening the lid. Soup can be served immediately, or let stand for a bit to continue thickening. Garnish with chopped basil and Parmesan cheese, if desired. Enjoy!

Sausage Gravy

Sausage Gravy is a southern staple for breakfast. It is delightful on some homemade biscuits, and (my favorite!) anything chicken fried. It couldn’t be any easier to make, and a perfect way to add flavor and spice to your next brunch. I used hot sausage because I like things spicy, but mild breakfast sausage can easily be substituted if you prefer.

 

Ingredients:
½ tbsp. bacon grease
4 oz. crumbled pork breakfast sausage (I used Jimmy Dean)
2 tbsp. flour
¾ cup milk
Salt & pepper to taste (I like lots of pepper!)

Heat cast iron or heavy bottom skillet on medium-low heat. Add bacon grease and crumbled sausage and stir until cooked throughout, about 5 minutes. Add flour to pan and continue to stir for 2 minutes more, until all of the sausage is coated in flour. Add milk, salt and pepper and let simmer until thick, about 5-8 minutes. Serve immediately over biscuits or Chicken Fried Pork Chops. Enjoy!

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi SoupThis comforting soup is so easy to make, thanks to the prepackaged gnocchi that cook directly in the soup. Gnocchi, small potato dumplings that cook in just a few minutes, can be found vacuum-packed in the pasta aisle (I got mine at Trader Joe’s). An added bonus – the starches from the gnocchi release into the soup while cooking, which thicken the hearty broth and guarantee to warm you up on a chilly evening. Add some spicy turkey sausage, diced tomatoes, cannellini beans, shallots and zucchini, and you’ve got a healthy, flavorful, balanced meal that is ready in about 30 minutes.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 lb. Italian turkey sausage links (hot or mild)
2 tbsp. olive oil
2 shallots, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
28 oz. can diced tomatoes (including liquids)
3 cups chicken broth
1 tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. Italian seasoning
¼ tsp. crushed red pepper
1 lb. potato gnocchi
2 medium zucchini, cut into small cubes
15 oz. can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
Salt and pepper to taste
Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese (optional)

Italian Sausage and Gnocchi Soup 2Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cook sausage links in shallow baking pan until cooked throughout, about 15 minutes. In a Dutch oven or large soup pot, heat oil on medium-low heat, until shallots and garlic sizzle when added. Sauté shallots and garlic until fragrant, about 2 minutes, add diced tomatoes with liquid, chicken broth, sugar, Italian seasoning, and crushed red pepper, and bring to a simmer for 10 minutes. Turn heat up to medium and add gnocchi and zucchini. Bring back up to a light boil, and cook 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently, until both are cooked. While gnocchi and zucchini are simmering, slice sausage links into discs. Add cannellini beans and sausage and stir until heated, about 3 minutes. Serve immediately and top with grated cheese.

Enjoy!

Wine Pairing:
Poggio al Casone Toscana 2010

(Make ahead tip: If you are planning to make this in advance, prepare gnocchi as directed on package, store separately from soup, and add gnocchi to soup as it’s reheating.  This will prevent the gnocchi from absorbing too much of the soup liquid while storing and becoming mushy.)

Orecchiette with Italian Sausage, Kale and Lemon Ricotta

Inspired by a recent meal at Italic in Austin, Texas, I wanted to recreate their orecchiette dish at home.  The spice of the sausage and red pepper and the bitterness of the kale were cooled by the perfectly fresh lemon ricotta.  Named after “a small ear,”  orecchiette is the perfect shape to capture all of those flavors working in perfect harmony.

 

 

Ingredients (serves 2-3):
8 oz. ricotta cheese
Zest of ½ lemon
3 tbsp. olive oil
¾ lb. ground Italian sausage
1 bunch kale, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
½ tsp. crushed red pepper
4 oz. orecchiette pasta
¼ cup pasta water, reserved
Salt and pepper to taste

To make the lemon ricotta:Lemon Ricotta

Zest ½ lemon into 8 oz. ricotta and a sprinkle of salt.  Be careful to zest only the yellow part of the lemon, because that’s where the flavor is.  The white part,  called the pith, is very bitter.  Stir to blend.  Set aside while cooking to let the flavors meld together.

Bring pasta water to a boil, salt liberally.  Cook orecchiette al dente according to directions, reserving approximately ¼ cup pasta water when draining.  Pasta water is great because it’s already seasoned with salt and it’s a little starchy, which helps to bind ingredients.

chopped kale

Chop kale into roughly two inch pieces, discarding large stems.  Rinse in colander and remove to dry.

Meanwhile, on medium heat, brown sausage in sauté pan.  Remove sausage from skillet, draining excess oil.  Return skillet to medium heat and add olive oil.  Add garlic and red pepper and sauté for 2 minutes until fragrant before adding kale.  Within a few minutes the kale should start to shrink and turn darker green.  Add reserved pasta water and cook for approximately 5 minutes until kale is cooked.  Give a quick taste before adding salt because the pasta water is already salty.  Add sausage and pasta and stir to combine.

Serve immediately with a big dollop of lemon ricotta.Orecchiette topped with ricotta

Enjoy!