There’s no reason bratwurst should only be consumed grilled and on a sturdy bun with sauerkraut, spicy mustard, and onions that have, of course, been cooked in beer. In Germany, you just get a tiny piece of rye bread with which to hold your wurst, none of this big old fat sandwich business…and I digress. But sure, there are tons of other ways to use bratwurst and other link sausages, too. If you’re camping, for instance, and happen to have cooked bratwurst, you think nothing of slicing it into a pan of creamy scrambled eggs because you’re not throwing that out, ok, and there’s not enough for lunch. At home, you might mix a few leftover bites into a kitchen sink pasta salad for a fast dinner or throw together a big slow cooker full of brats and sauerkraut when friends are coming to play cards or even make a sheet pan dinner with brats and veggies. I’m partial to cooked bratwurst cut into chunks, stuck with toothpicks, and served up with a couple of different sauces (including spicy mustard!) for a meaty app. If it’s soup night (usually Thursday at our house), I could (and did) sauté a bunch of sliced bratwurst coins, add veggies, broth and lentils, et voilà, time to get out the bowls, pour the wine, and enjoy Bratwurst-Lentil Soup!
I know it’s spring, but it doesn’t stop me from making a pot of soup each week. My reasons are manifold:
- I love soup. I just do. Look at the blog. You’ll get it.
- When I make soup, I have that night’s dinner and another covered for the week. Makes me feel rich.
- There are leftovers for lunch. What’s for lunch? is often easily navigated in my kitchen.
- Soup manages to squeeze lots of extra veggies into the diet and is filling.
- I often include legumes (beans, peas, lentils) for health reasons: extra protein, excellent nutrition, and lots of fiber.
- Soup contributes to getting enough water into the body.
- Soup can use up leftovers. Waste not…
- Soup’s mostly not fattening. There are, however, soups like Loaded Baked Potato and even French Onion that aren’t particularly slimming. Oh well; we eat them seldom and enjoy them when we do.
- I’m interested in seasonal soups, so continue to make them year round.
- Soup is, for the most part, inexpensive. I am blessed and have enough food money, but I see it as a gift and know I have to be careful with it. Most serious cooks are fairly frugal with food.
I am also a lazy cook and choose the easy way out most times and it’s evidenced by my daily use of a food processor — in this case a stellar Cadillac model by Breville, seen here in my photos of the simple process for making this soup. Look over the photos and then go straight to the recipe so you can soon try this:
- Olive oil
- 1 pound Bratwurst (4-5 links), sliced into 1/2-inch coins
- Pinch of crushed red pepper
- Large onion, chopped
- 3 EACH, chopped–cloves of garlic, large carrots, stalks of celery
- Handful minced fresh parsley
- 1 cup chopped cabbage
- 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fresh ground pepper
- 2 teaspoons dry thyme
- 1 teaspoon rubbed sage
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 cup red wine
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 2 quarts water-or more if the soup becomes too thick and the lentils aren’t yet done
- 1- quart low sodium chicken broth
- Small rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, optional
- 1 medium unpeeled russet potato, diced
- 1 pound brown lentils
- Extra virgin olive oil or red wine or sherry vinegar for garnish
- Grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for garnish
- Sliced green onions for garnish
- SAUTÉ THE BRATWURST: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in an 8 or 10-quart heavy soup pot over medium-high heat for one minute. Add sausage pieces and cook until brown on one side; turn and brown the other. Remove to a bowl and reserve.
- COOK THE VEGETABLES: Add crushed red pepper to the pot along with another tablespoon of oil. Stir in the onion, garlic, carrots, celery, parsley, cabbage, salt, pepper, thyme, sage, and bay leaf. Cook, stirring often, until vegetables are softened, 10-12 minutes. Reduce heat and/or add a little more oil if vegetables are browning too quickly. Pour in red wine and stir in the tomato paste. Cook for another 2-3 minutes or until wine is reduced by half.
- POUR IN WATER AND BROTH along with the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, if using. Raise heat to high and cover until the soup comes to a boil. Add lentils, potato, and reserved browned sausage. Reduce to simmer and cook uncovered until everything is tender, adding more water if needed to keep the mixture brothy—perhaps 40 minutes total.
- TASTE and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with your choice of garnishes.Store in fridge 3-4 days or in the freezer for up to 6 months.
- If you look at my graphic for saving $$ at the grocery store above, note this recipe hits it right on in a few places. S for make soup; S for shop the sales; V focus on value–cook for leftovers; E for skip a restaurant meal. You’re already cooking at home for health, wealth, and happiness. Yes!
- Lately, as food prices have risen so dramatically, I’ve noticed decent prices on packages of (often store brand, but not always) bratwurst or Italian sausage, etc. in the grocery store. Last week, I bought a few pounds of Italian sausage for $2.69 a pound. That’ll go a long way. Buy extra and freeze it until you need it. Lentils are about $1.50 a pound. You can’t beat that.
- Change it up. Want to punch up the bratwurst flavor? Add a little ginger, nutmeg, and maybe even marjoram and white pepper, as those are some of the herbs and spices used to make the sausage. As the recipe notes, you can swap in Italian sausage or kielbasa or other sausage links if that’s your heart’s desire. You might want to use different herbs and spices then (see recipe), but if you don’t, the soup will be good and will eat! I also make my husband’s favorite lentil soup with bulk breakfast sausage. Be brave. Even chopped and browned bacon makes a yummy lentil soup. The potato gives the soup body and thickens it a little, but you can leave it out if you don’t have it. No cabbage? Skip it or stir in fresh spinach for the last few minutes. If you need a vegetarian soup, skip the meat, use 2 peeled, diced sweet potatoes instead, and trade the chicken broth for vegetable broth.
- Slow Cooker? I didn’t try this in the slow cooker, but of course it would work. Brown the sausage first and use the plan in my quite similar Ham + Lentil Soup with Parmigiano-Reggiano.
- Need to stretch this soup to a few more servings? Serve leftovers on top of rice or small pasta. Add extra seasoning and/or more cheese on top as the rice or pasta will dumb down the flavor of the soup.
Are you menu planning? Menus needn’t be detailed or fancy, but they’ll help you make sure to use what you have on hand, eat healthier, as well as encourage you to cook to the sales/seasonal items. I often check the grocery sales flyer before writing my menus on Mondays on 1/4 sheet of printer paper (I cut my used paper into 1/4’s for scrap paper). Best practice is to do it in pencil and feel free to change things if you don’t finish a meal, get invited out, or decide you’re hungry for pizza. Overall, I find it keeps me on track for the week cooking wise, helps me use up what needs to be used up, and also nudges me to get something out of the freezer on time so I’m not scurrying around trying to thaw something for dinner — though that still happens occasionally. Menus also show me when I have time to bake or throw a big batch of chicken in the oven, etc. Here’s my messy one from last week. I keep it on the fridge. Yours could look very different. Some folks do it ahead for a whole month, batch-cooking/freezing, etc. With only two of us at home, I don’t need to do that, but you might find it helpful.
If you like this, you might also like my More Time-French Style Lentil Soup with Flageolet Beans and Sausage, which I made after getting home from two weeks in France.
or you also might like my Pumpkin-Lentil Soup from the fall of 2021
LIFE GOES ON:
Typically we do not put annuals or indoor pots outdoors until Memorial Day. This year I’ve already put a few of my indoor potted herbs, etc. out on the front porch where I can easily bring them back in or cover them. Our sprinklers are turned on as well. I had the AC on today (Saturday) for a bit. IT WAS 90–a record. I needn’t say how dry it is. You’ll see our weather is labeled, “Fire Weather” on the national news or weather shows. Wind, wind, go away.
Update: As I edit the blog today (Monday), our air quality is at 155, the worst I’ve ever seen — and it’s all dust from the days and days of wind. Running out to turn on a manual sprinkler and water some herb seeds, I came in coughing and had to shut the house tight. Reminds me of the Dust Bowl in the ’30s. Our old Tuck, at nearly 12, won’t be getting his walk today. Wherever you live, there are serious weather concerns — hurricanes, ice and snow, tornados, or fire for us out west. See video above taken off our eastern deck. I had the phone switched to video by mistake, but you get the picture!
What’s happening in your garden?
Thanks for spending time with me in my kitchen and in my yard. I appreciate it always.
I hope you’re soon going to be saying, “Is it soup yet?” as you enjoy spring wherever you are…unless you’re in Australia, that is–which I know some of you are. Rain dances still appreciated.