Italian sausage soup with orzo and spinach is a healthy and filling soup recipe perfect for year round! Serve with a crusty piece of bread and a salad for a well-balanced meal.
Italian sausage soup is one of those meals I love eating at my parents. When I'm out of ideas for meal planning, I'll usually give them a call and ask what they're eating and add it to my upcoming menu. This was the lucky meal in question the day of a recent phone call.
There are several differences in our soups, one being that my mom doesn't always measure things. So our beloved Italian sausage soup was described to me as "a few of these, a can of this, a couple good shakes of this, and two handfuls of that". But I got the gist.
A couple of extra spices, a pasta switch-up, and a few practice rounds later, I've landed on my own spin on Italian sausage soup, this one featuring orzo and spinach.
P.S. If you're into orzo in soup, you may also want to check out this vegetable beef soup, too.
Reasons to Love This Recipe
- Everything is cooked in one pot to keep the clean-up count low.
- It's a great recipe to use up odds and ends from your kitchen, such as different vegetables, pasta shapes, greens, etc.
- You can easily lighten it up by using chicken or turkey Italian sausage instead of pork.
- Italian sausage: Sweet, mild, or hot Italian sausage all work, depending on your preferences. So do chicken, turkey, or traditional pork.
- Mirepoix: Comprised of onions, carrots, and celery, try and chop them up into equally-sized pieces so they soften in similar timing.
- Crushed tomatoes: If you can find crushed tomatoes with added basil flavoring, even better.
- Spices: You can simplify most of these by using a pre-made Italian seasoning blend. One-half teaspoon of crushed red pepper helps bring flavor and not heat. Add extra if you like things on the spicier side.
- Orzo: Another smaller pasta shape can be used here, such as acini de pepe, pastina, or ditalini.
- Greens: Spinach is my usual pick here but other greens, such as baby kale or arugula also work great. If using standard kale, such as curly or lacinato, keep in mind those varieties will need several additional minutes to wilt.
- Getting a rough "mise en place" situated always helps me to move smoothly through a recipe. For this soup, first chop up the celery, onions, and carrots, as well as measure out the dried spices.
- Add the ground Italian sausage to a soup pot set over medium heat, breaking the sausage up into small pieces until fully cooked. This should take around 10 minutes. Once cooked, remove the sausage crumbles to a paper-towel lined plate to drain the fat.
- Add the oil to the now-empty pot, then once heated add in the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook for 6-8 minutes, or until the vegetables are beginning to soften.
- Pour in a small portion of the broth (around one-third cup or so) to deglaze the pan. As the broth bubbles, scrape up the stuck-on, burnt bits from the bottom of the pot until it's clean to incorporate all that flavor into the vegetables. Add back the cooked sausage, then pour in the rest of the broth, crushed tomatoes, water, and spices.
- Let the soup simmer for an hour or so, then raise the heat to a boil. Add the orzo and cook according to package directions, usually about 10 minutes. Stir it often so it doesn't stick together.
- Stir in spinach (or arugula - see notes on other greens) when there's 1-2 minutes remaining on the orzo cook time. Once wilted, adjust the seasonings to taste and serve.
Recipe Tips and Tricks
- The amount of water you add doesn't have to be precise. I fill up the empty 28-ounce can of crushed tomatoes as much as I can without risking spilling it on the way from the sink to the stove and pour it in.
- I highly recommend sprinkling grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese over top for serving. It melts into the hot soup in a delicious way.
- Six ounces of fresh spinach may look like a lot going in, but it wilts and reduces significantly. Do add as much as you like, but I found this amount to add heft to each serving without overwhelming.
- Freezing fresh spinach is one of my favorite tricks to always have this quick-to-get-slimy produce on hand. And there's no need to thaw, just add it frozen right to the soup.
Very well! Simply portion out leftover soup into air-tight containers and freeze for up to three months for the freshest flavor.
Soup and salad is a classic combo for a reason. I love a side salad with a hearty dressing, such as Greek yogurt caesar dressing or hummus salad dressing. Crusty bread with good butter also rounds out the meal.
You don't have to but you can. If you add dry orzo to the soup, it'll get supersized in leftover portions overnight. I find it makes the soup that much more hearty, with one-half cup of orzo not completely taking over the leftovers. If you don't like the orzo "growing" so large you can boil it separately and add it to the soup once cooked.
If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, I’d love for you to leave a star rating in the recipe card and/or a comment review below!
Italian Sausage Soup with Orzo
- 16 ounces (454g) ground Italian sausage
- 1 Tablespoon (15 ml) olive oil
- 1 medium (175g) onion diced
- 1 large (103g) carrot diced (about ⅔ cup)
- 2 medium/large celery ribs diced (about ½ cup)
- 32 ounces (907g) reduced-sodium chicken broth
- 1 28-ounce can (794g) crushed tomatoes
- 28 ounces (828 ml) water
- ¾ teaspoon dried oregano
- ¾ teaspoon dried basil
- ½ teaspoon dried parsley
- ½ teaspoon garlic powder
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper more to taste
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme leaves
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- ¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup (85g) dry orzo pasta
- 6 ounces (170g) fresh spinach leaves (about 4 cups packed)
- Place a large, heavy-bottomed pot on the stovetop over medium heat. Add the sausage and cook for 8-10 minutes or until the sausage is no longer pink and fully cooked, breaking up the pieces into smaller crumbles as you go. Transfer the cooked sausage to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- Add olive oil to the pot and place it back on the stove over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 6-8 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened some.
- Pour around one-third cup of the broth into the pot and scrape up any stuck-on, burnt bits from the bottom as the broth bubbles. Stir this fond into the vegetables.
- Add the cooked and crumbled sausage back to the pot, then pour in the rest of the broth, crushed tomatoes, and water and stir.
- Add the oregano, basil, parsley, garlic powder, crushed red pepper, thyme, salt, and pepper and stir.
- Reduce the heat so the soup is at a simmer. Let simmer for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Raise the heat to bring it up to a boil, then add the dry orzo. Let cook for 10 minutes, or according to orzo package directions. Stir frequently so that the orzo doesn't clump together.
- Stir in the spinach a minute or so before the orzo will be done. Adjust the seasonings to taste. This Italian sausage soup is ready to serve once the orzo is tender and the spinach is slightly wilted.
- Top this soup with grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese for serving.
- While it looks like a lot of spinach going in, it reduces a whole lot as it wilts to not overwhelming the other ingredients.
- The orzo will get larger in leftover portions as the soup refrigerates overnight, so do not add more than one-half cup. You can also boil the orzo according to package directions in a separate pot, adding the cooked orzo to the soup at the end, to limit the extra absorption.
- Freeze Italian sausage soup in air-tight containers for up to three months for the freshest flavors.
Nutritional information is provided as an estimate. As it can vary due to many factors (brands used, quantities, etc.), we cannot guarantee its accuracy.Food Safety and Nutrition Disclaimer