Finally! Fall weather is here. The leaves are starting to change, the temperatures are cooling down, and I can put soup on the menu without getting funny looks. Hallelujah! I’ve made this Creamy Gnocchi and Italian Sausage Soup twice in as many weeks, and it was a hit both times.
This recipe is rich and creamy, but it does not use any heavy cream at all. Instead, it gets its creaminess for the underrated shelf stable product known as evaporated milk. Evaporated milk is really just milk that has had 60% of the water removed from fresh milk. It’s much more nutrient dense than regular milk, and since so much water has been removed it’s quite a bit creamier.
One 12-oz can of evaporated milk has about 480 calories. Compare that to over 1200 in the same amount of heavy cream. Yikes! You can certainly sub in half and half here, but I think you’ll find that the evaporated milk is much more cost effective and produces a sufficiently creamy result.
NOTE: I think it’s important to stop here and clarify that we’re talking about evaporated milk, not sweetened condensed milk. They’re right next to each other in the baking aisle. Do not buy the wrong one. You will be sad. Sweetened condensed milk is used in desserts and would be no bueno in a savory soup.
My Aldi doesn’t sell ground Italian sausage, but they do sell a 19-oz package of links for $2.69. I buy the mild one, but they have a hot version as well. Thinly slice each link vertically with the tip of your knife and pull the meat out of the casing. Voila, ground sausage.
Aldi does not always carry gnocchi, but they have some right now! You have a choice between Wild Garlic and Pumpkin gnocchi for just $1.99. I went with the wild garlic because it fits with the other flavors of this soup better, but hey, live large and try the pumpkin if you want. I’ve never met a gnocchi that I haven’t liked.
If your store is out of gnocchi, you can always substitute with tortellini. They carry that year-round, and this soup would be just as good with it.
Finally, you can swap the Italian sausage with chicken if you prefer to avoid red meat. That substitution would lighten this up even more.
Creamy Gnocchi and Italian Sausage Soup
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage
- 1 onion chopped
- 2 large carrots chopped
- 2 stalks celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 1 tbsp Italian seasoning
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 4 cups beef broth
- salt to taste
- pepper to taste
- 8 oz fresh baby spinach
- 3 12-oz cans full fat evaporated milk
- 1 18-oz package gnocchi any variety
- 1 cup milk optional
- fresh Parmesan cheese for topping
- Step 1 Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook gnocchi according to package directions. Drain and set aside.
- Step 2 Meanwhile, heat a large pan over medium heat. Add onion, carrots, celery, and garlic and cook until softened, about 10 minutes.
- Step 3 Add Italian sausage to pan, breaking it up into smaller pieces. Sprinkle with Italian seasoning and garlic powder and cook until sausage is no longer pink.
- Step 4 Pour beef broth in with meat mixture and heat to boiling, then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes to let the flavors meld. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
- Step 5 Add entire 8 oz bag of spinach and press down until all leaves are submerged. Continue to cook until leaves are wilted, about 3-5 minutes.
- Step 6 Pour evaporated milk into soup and mix well. Add cooked gnocchi and stir in gently.
- Step 7 Add milk if desired. Heat to a low simmer.
- Step 8 Ladle soup into bowls and top with fresh Parmesan cheese. This makes lots, so enjoy it for lunch the next day, too!