Rev 1.01, last revised: 23-Sep-07
This is an easy and relatively low-carb soup that's simply excellent on a cold and rainy San Jose night. The aroma of the soup cooking all day will simply drive you nuts!
** Italian sausage varies from spicy to mild. I enjoy the spicy kind, and especially those with lots of delicious, fragrant Fennel seeds.
Heat the Olive oil in a large, thick-bottomed pot. Sauté onion, sliced Italian sausage, and optional red chili pepper flakes (if used) until the onions become clear. As they continue to cook and begin to turn gently brown, they have begun to caramelize (more on Caramelized Onions). As the sausage and onion begin to brown, add the green peppers, garlic, and celery. Lower your heat, and allow the onions to caramelize a bit on the bottom of the pan as the veggies over them cook. Onions caramelized this way will add a hint of brown color to the soup and will both sweeten and dramatically flavor it.
When moderately caramelized, add the broth, and any of the additional seasonings if you wish. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to your slowest simmer, and cover. Now you must stand aside and let time do its magic. Keep in mind that the longer this cooks the better. Done right, the sausage should melt in your mouth and the sausage flavors should suffuse the broth.
About half an hour before it's ready to be served, stir in the tomato paste and add the Zucchini.
Serve with a sprinkle of real grated or shaved parmesan cheese (or Romano and others). This soup is great on a cold winter day, and never fails to brighten my evening...
Enjoy it with a few heavily buttered slices of my Provender, Francesi, or San Francisco Sourdough French bread; and a hot fire-poker warmed Bock beer.
NB: I usually make this soup with a bit more broth. If your sausage is tasty enough, you can extend it with some water and salt. Then, if unexpected company shows up, you can shred some (any kind) cabbage or even use ordinary table salad into the bottom of the bowl, and serve the soup with some extra broth over it. The hot broth heats/cooks the tender cabbage just enough to make it most enjoyable.
Catty-sliced: Start by laying the Zucchini flat on the cutting board in front of you. Then slice it. But, instead of slicing straight across, slice at a 45-degree angle. Roll the Zucchini 90-degrees, and slice again...and so on... By doing this, your veggie gets sliced in a way that varies the thickness from nothing to thickest. That permits it to get cooked through in some places, and not so cooked in others. Cutting this way allows the food to be cooked enough for those that like things cooked to mush, and permits a more crunchy mouth-feel for those that don't.