Red Pepper and Italian Sausage Soup

Editor’s Note: This soup is easily doubled if you’re feeding a crowd. To make this soup friendly to vegetarians, use vegetable stock instead of chicken stock and omit the sausage from the garnish (just increase the amount of peppers instead).

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

2 pounds red peppers

1 onion (12 ounces), peeled and sliced

2 garlic cloves (1 ounce), peeled and sliced

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 tablespoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon ground fennel seed

1 bay leaf

3 sprigs thyme

1 tablespoon chipotle chili in adobo sauce (available in small cans in most supermarkets)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 (14.5-ounce) can diced tomatoes in juice

1 celery rib, cut crosswise into 2–4 pieces

1 quart unsalted chicken stock

Italian Sausage and Green Pepper Garnish (recipe follows)

Prepare the peppers: On a charcoal or gas grill over medium-high flame, grill for about 6 minutes while turning regularly, until evenly roasted and blackening. Set aside until cool enough to handle. Remove stems and seeds (do not peel) and dice into medium-sized pieces.

Place the oil in a 4-quart soup pot over medium heat. Sweat (cook gently without browning) the grilled peppers, onion, garlic, paprika, coriander, fennel seed, bay leaf, thyme, chili, salt, and pepper for 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, celery, and stock and bring up to a boil. Simmer, covered, for 20 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and thyme sprigs and purée the soup. Strain through a medium-mesh strainer. Keep warm while you prepare the garnish.

When the garnish is ready, place 4 sausage balls into each bowl with a little of the sautéed green pepper. Pour the soup around the sausage balls and serve.

Italian Sausage and Green Pepper Garnish

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

8 ounces bulk Italian sausage, rolled into 32 marble-sized balls, about ¼ ounce each

1 (8-ounce) green bell or frying pepper, stem, core, and seeds removed, and cut into 1-inch long julienne strips

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 teaspoon garlic, minced

Place a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add 1 tablespoon of the olive oil. Add the small sausage balls and brown on all sides for about 3 to 4 minutes, until cooked through. Remove from the pan to a plate. Add 1 additional tablespoon of olive oil if there isn’t enough oil in the pan, then add the green peppers.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and sauté for about 2 minutes until crisp-tender.  Add the garlic, sauté for 15 seconds, until fragrant. Remove from heat and garnish soup bowls.