Sweet And Crumby

Baking, a Love Story

Soup 101 – How to Create Your Own Soups


Making soup is magical. I love to step into my kitchen with a big, empty stock pot on the stove and start building my soup. It’s therapeutic for me; as onions sizzle, and my sleek chef’s knife makes crisp and loud chops against the cutting board through celery, carrots and potatoes, my entire body releases stress. Forget about a runner’s high. It has absolutely nothing on a soup maker’s high.

Soup feeds the body and soul and permeates your house with aromas that escape under door cracks and out windows to let the neighborhood know that you ARE ALL THAT and a pot of soup. This hearty Italian Sausage soup is, of course, nothing terribly new, BUT as I walk you through the basic steps of CREATING your own soup, I will show you how I switched it up based on what’s in my fridge and pantry and what my family likes.

This is a summary taken from Fine Cooking Magazine (December 2011 issue) and although I considered myself very proficient at soups, it honestly has changed my soup making forever; has elevated and added depths to my soups that I hadn’t known was missing. Well, here we go.

Step 1: Start with either a homemade stock (Like this one from There’s Always Thyme to Cook) or a good quality store-bought (preferably organic) stock at the ready for later. The quality of the stock really does play an important role. I rarely make my own stock, I am ashamed to admit. I am just not an organized person who could handle packaging them up in little ice cube trays or containers in my freezer. I am more than thrilled with Imagine’s No Chicken Broth. It is supposed to mimic chicken broth but is vegetarian and since my hubby is ALLERGIC to CHICKEN (imagine that?!), this works quite nicely for us.

—Side note on Roux: French for “reddish brown,” a roux is a thickener for sauces and soups that combines equal parts flour and butter. Creamy soups tend to require a roux to thicken them. For my mushroom soup and spinach soup, the roux I use is two tablespoons of flour with two tablespoons of butter thrown in with the garlic and onion (aromatics) step.

Step 2: Basic Aromatics which include carrots, celery, onions, garlic, leek, shallots, fennel, parsnips, etc. Other aromatics you might want to add are chopped fresh ginger, chiles or lemongrass. Peel, chop and saute these guys in the big stock pot with either olive oil or some butter, depending on what type of soup you are making. I almost always choose olive oil. Saute until softened and translucent. This takes just a few minutes. AND, here’s a Geni’s bonus tip: I usually throw in my prosciutto, bacon or a ham bone now depending on the soup for a little smokiness. This is one area you can get a little creative. I used left over whole pepperoni which I chopped into “lardons” (chunks) since I didn’t have any of the others I mentioned. Obviously, don’t do this if you are making a vegetarian soup.

Step 3:  Add Spices and Hearty Herbs -Add your bay leaf (I have a preference for Turkish Bay Leaf) or some chili powder, ground coriander, thyme, cumin, or rosemary, etc. Stir it up with your aromatics and cook just a couple of minutes.

Step 4:Add Starches  like potatoes (red potatoes cubed are my frequent starch of choice), tiny pastas, canned beans, noodles, rice or grains. Stir it up and keep on truckin’.

Step 5: Add the Vegetables. In this recipe, it was kale for me, but you can add spinach, zucchini, peas, chard, bok choy, mushrooms, etc.

Step 6: Now is a good time to pour in your stock. Bring it to a boil and then reduce your heat and simmer awhile…maybe about 20 minutes or so. It really depends on the type of soup you are making. You can puree your soup after it is done simmering if you are making a smooth soup like my Cream of Spinach, Sweet Potato or Creamy Mushroom soups.

*If you are adding some kind of  COOKED meat or poultry to your soup, in this case I added cooked and sliced Italian sausage, add it now.

Step 7: MY FAVORITE STEP and the one that CHANGED MY SOUPS! Finish the soup. For those gourmands out there, you may be thinking, “This is not rocket science!”. But for me, it was a game changer. Your options for finishes are fairly endless but here are some common additions to add towards the end of your cooking process; lemon or lime juice (1 Tbsp at a time), soy sauce (1 Tbsp. at a time), Sesame oil (1/2 tsp. at a time), vinegar (red or white wine, sherry, etc. 1 tsp at a time), heavy cream (or in my case half and half or whole milk…I very rarely use heavy cream, 2 Tbsp at a time), fish sauce (1 Tbsp at a time), delicate herbs like mint, parsley, tarragon, cilantro, etc., hot sauce (like Tabasco or Sriracha 1/2 tsp. at a time—trust me) and sugar (brown or granulated…just a 1/2 tsp at a time).  It was the lemon juice and Sriracha that, when added, really gave my soup an added dimension.

Garnishes: This particular soup did not have a garnish, but here are some typical options—crisp tortilla strips, chopped avocado, fresh herbs sprinkled atop of a bowl, scallions, a dollop of creme fraiche or Greek Yogurt, toasted chopped nuts, cranberries, Parmesean grated, etc.

—It’s Girl Scout Cookie time and last year I posted a Thin Mint Cupcake if you need a minty, chocolate fudge-y fix about now!  

Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup

Makes about 8-10 average sized bowls of soup
2 T. olive oil
3 strips of prosciutto (about 2-3 ounces) chopped OR 1/4 lb. of pepperoni cut into chunks like bacon lardons
1 1/2 lbs. of Italian sausage in the casing (mild or spicy depending on your palate)
2 leeks chopped (see instructions for leeks below)
2 shallot bulbs, peeled and chopped finely
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped finely
1 bay leaf
3 tsp. chopped fresh Thyme or 2 tsp. dried Thyme
3 large red skinned potatoes, washed and chopped (not peeled)
2 large carrots, peeled and diced
3 celery stalks, chopped (I did not have celery this time and used two parsnips peeled and chopped instead).
Salt and freshly ground pepper (1/2 tsp of each at this point add more to taste when finishing the soup)
2 quarts of chicken or vegetable stock (I use No Chicken Broth by Imagine Foods)
1 15.5 oz can of either Great Northern Beans or Cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 bunch Kale, cleaned, trimmed and chopped
1-2 T. lemon juice
1-2 tsp. Sriracha depending on your preference for hot
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
Added salt and pepper to your taste.

To make the soup:First, get your sausages cooking. In a large skillet on medium heat, cook the sausages on all sides (covering while you cook and then rolling them or flipping them once one side is browned until all sides are browned and it’s still a faint pink in the middle). While your sausages are cooking, peel, clean and chop all of your vegetables so they are at the ready.

To prepare the leeks, I lop off the top and bottom unusable parts, cut them in half lengthwise and then soak them in a bath of water for about 10 minutes. This helps to release grains of dirt that are stuck in between the layers of the leek. Separate the layers a bit in the water. Dry them off after soaking and simply chop, making 1/2 inch slices.

When you take your sausages off the stove, wipe off any excess grease with a paper towel and let cool until ok to handle. Slice in 1/4 inch slices and set aside.

In a large stock pot over medium high heat, add the oil and prosciutto. Saute for a minute and then add your leek, shallots and garlic and saute on MEDIUM for about 2 minutes or until they look translucent. Add your bay leaf and the thyme and stir. Add the potatoes, carrots and celery. Top with salt and pepper and stir and saute for about 2 minutes. Add the stock and stir, making sure to bring up any stuck on bits from the bottom of the pot. Turn heat to high and bring to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Add the beans, kale and sausage, stir and cover and simmer another 5-10 minutes more or until potatoes are tender. Stir in lemon juice, Sriracha (optional) and Parmesan. Then add salt and pepper to taste. Serve with crusty French bread or a cheesy Panini of some kind.

36 thoughts on “Soup 101 – How to Create Your Own Soups

  1. so deliciou, so delicious… exactly seems so delicious… Thank you dear Geni, with my love, nia

  2. This sausage, potato, & kale soup sounds very good! Well, if a dish starts with prosciutto, I’m in. Your soup 101 instructions are very helpful, too. I probably should have said that first but I lost track of things once I saw the prosciutto as an ingredient. 🙂

  3. Geni, YOU are all that for sure!! I love this and am printing off your numbered steps for my daughter!! It’s absolutely perfect in every way. I love the pepperoni – in a pinch anything will do I see!! You have me now wanting to go home and make a pot of soup as you described the process so pleasurable!!

  4. My husband and I make a big pot of soup every Sunday and that’s what we eat for lunch all week. We do it for weight loss help and because nothing beats a good soup on a cold winter day. Great post!

  5. So eloquently written Geni and a brilliant recipe to boot.
    🙂 Mandy

  6. This is a great post I love this one. All winter we make stock overnight on the wood stove, then i strain it, let it cool, skim off the fat and pour into a container, my biggest problem is forgetting to label the container! I am thinking I might make this sausage soup for dinner, i have everything for it and like you say as long as i follow the basic steps i can invent the rest as i go along. Great! we love soups.. c

  7. Have a pot of chicken stock on the stove right now … looking forward to Chicken Chili tomorrow 🙂 Great ideas here!

  8. Oh yummy – feel like grabbing a bowl now 🙂

  9. Yum! Your post gives me all kinds of ideas now!

  10. You had to mention your sweet potato soup again didn’t you. Just when I had gotten over my addiction. 😉 Seriously love that soup! This was fabulous and very helpful – especially the part about a finisher.

    • Sometimes it’s funny how big an effect a little tweak can have. Really, it brought a very good soup to a memorable and delicious soup in a matter of a few squeezes of lemon and Sriracha (do you know I can’t think of that word without thinking of how your kiddo says it? And it always makes me smile!) 🙂

  11. I love sausage and kale together, and your soup sounds wonderful. Great tips on building flavors, and like you, I’d never given much thought to finishing the soup, but it totally makes sense. Great post.

  12. I seriously could eat soups day in and day out. Unfortunately, the boys in my life (including Hubs) can not. I love these tips though! And will definitely be checking back in with this post the next time I get to make some soup. 🙂

  13. What a great soup primer. I make up big batches of stock and keep it in the freezer just so I can have good soup whenever I want.

  14. Soup is easily my favorite food. It’s also the one thing that I’m especially good at making. Probably because I love it so much. I typically make a giant pot of vegetable broth every month or so and then freeze 2 cups at a time in ziploc bags so it’s always ready when I want it. Soup is so much better when you use homemade broth.

  15. Pingback: Soup 101 – How to Create Your Own Soups « Sweet And Crumby | Cooking Help Resource

  16. This is an awesome soup primer. Way to go, I wouldn’t have thought to write it up this way, but it’s so basic and helpful this way. I love making soups. Once you understand the basics, soup making really is totally relaxing. I get lazy about “finishing” my soups some of the time, but when I remember, it makes all the difference!

    P.S. Sausage with greens is my very favorite soup combination!

  17. super cool! I love how you can practically make any soup you want with this formula. 🙂

  18. Nice post Geni…and your soup sure looks delicious. I too love to make soup, especially now that is cold (not so much lately hehehe). Only lately that I started to add garnishes to the soup and I must tell you that does work beautifully…mainly because it is just for the two of us and I hate to see the same soup over and over again, so I always give a face lift 🙂
    Hope you are having a fabulous week!

  19. What a great tutorial on soup! Booking it, I love soup. Your sausage and kale soup looks delicious, stick to your ribs and very hearty!

  20. You make your soups like my mother. So while reading this my head was shaking up and down agreeing with you lol. Loved this post

  21. Good stock is always the way to go, I always keep bones of any meat I buy to make them

  22. I definitely get that soup maker’s high! There’s always a big pot of soup on the stove on Sunday in this house. These are great tips, Geni, and you have reminded me that I should be more creative and daring with my soup finishing!

  23. Homemade stock is the best! The soup looks very fresh and delicious.

  24. I love making homemade soup. Thanks for the step by step directions. I’m going to bookmark this for my nutrition/personal training clients. I’ve been having sessions where I help clients learn how to make their own foods and freeze them. I’m going to share them your link and hopefully you’ll have new followers! Have a great day!

  25. Brilliant post Geni!
    I learned so much..thank you.I think my soups will never be the same again.
    I pinned this because I think it will be helpful to so many people

  26. Your sausage soup sounds terrific. I agree about finishing the soup…especially adding a little acid (lemon or vinegar) seems to make the taste pop.

  27. Given that I am well-versed in both runner’s highs and soup maker’s highs…I will say that they are equally awesome. but quite different. 😛

    I wouldn’t be able to choose which I love more.

    This is such a great soup-making tutorial of a post!

  28. Delicious ! And all that advise is very useful.

  29. That soup looks amazing! nom nom nom…

  30. My fiancé is allergic to chicken, too! Turkey as well. I feel your pain.

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