I found the inspiration for this recipe from one by the same name that was featured on page 38 of the most recent copy of Love at First Sip Magazine, The Official Guide to Ohio Wines. It sounded intriguing and delicious. I had Italian sausage on hand and a did a quick trip though my pantry to find the other ingredients or good substitutions. All that was left was to pick up the wine and the few items I was missing.

Not having any tomato sauce, but an overwhelming supply of spaghetti sauce, I substituted that. I also added in some canned tomatoes, which I pureed as Bushmaster doesn’t care for chunks of cooked tomatoes.

I based my proportions on the original recipe but with as thick as the soup was, the first change was to cut back on the couscous. Even with the reduced portion, I had something that more resembled a casserole than soup. To remedy that situation, I doubled up on the spaghetti sauce, pureed tomatoes, and beef broth. Instead of adding more wine, I saved what was left to drink with my soup!

Here is my updated version of the recipe:

1 pound sweet Italian sausage, casings removed
1 cup onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup carrots, thinly sliced
2 cans (24 ounces) spaghetti sauce
2 cans (14.5 ounces) tomatoes, pureed
1 carton (32 ounces) beef broth
1 tablespoon fresh basil leaves, slices
1 cup couscous
3 small zucchini, cubed
1 medium green bell pepper, chopped
1-1/2 cup Cabernet Franc
1/4 cup Italian parsley, chopped
Mozzarella or Italian blend shredded cheese

Brown sausage. Transfer cooked sausage to paper towels to drain. Leave just enough oil to coat bottom of pan. Add onion, garlic, and carrots, Cook until tender. Add sauce, tomatoes, broth, wine, basil. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in all remaining ingredients except for cheese. Return sausage to pot. Cover and simmer an additional 20 minutes or until couscous is tender. Serve topped with cheese.

Makes 8 servings.

Bushmaster, true to form and even with the pureed tomatoes, declared that there were still way too many vegetables. But I hear that a lot from him. As for myself, I love a hearty soup, so the more vegetables the better!

I had never considered adding couscous as a grain to soup, but it really worked. I will be experimenting with some of my other recipes.

At first I wasn’t overly impressed and did not think I would be keeping this recipe. The original recommended using cheese for garnish, but I had forgotten to add that to my bowl. Big mistake! However, the next day, with a generous topping of cheese, I found the soup was much better. I remember both my Mom and my Grandma talking about how homemade soup is always better reheated so I guess this is a perfect example of that. Serve it the second day, rather than the first.

And then be sure to pour yourself a glass of Cab Franc for a really nice pairing!