It's that crazy time of the year when the weather doesn't quite know if it should be warm or cold. Several days ago we were wearing shorts and sandals, yesterday was rainy, and tonight we have a frost advisory. Perfect soup weather - not that I need cold weather to enjoy soup, but it does seem a bit more appropriate when there's a chill in the air.
A dear friend recently had surgery so I volunteered to bring her dinner. She and I occasionally have lunch together and every time we've eaten at Olive Garden, she's ordered the Zuppa Toscana. So I looked up a copycat version online and tweaked it a bit to come up with my own, even better, even heartier version. The only limitation I had was "no garlic" (ugh!), but there's enough flavor in this soup that it isn't missed. Of course, you should feel free to add a clove or two of minced garlic when you saute the onions if you like. Another nice addition is to add a can or two of rinsed and drained cannellini beans.
The verdict, I received an email saying they loved the soup and one family member proclaimed it the best soup she'd ever had. I don't know about that, but who am I to argue?
Start with sweet Italian sausage. I bought links and removed the casings.
Break up the sausage as it cooks. This awesome tool works so well for breaking up clumps of ground beef, turkey, and sausage.
The sausage is done when no traces of pink remain.
Remove the cooked sausage from the pan, leaving the rendered fat in the pan.
In the same pan, saute the onions (and garlic if using) in the rendered sausage fat.
When the onions are translucent, add the potatoes. I cut my potatoes into small pieces so they'd cook fast, but you can leave them in larger slices like the restaurant does if you prefer. I forgot to add my carrots at this point (you'll see my fix for that later, but you can add them now).
Return the sausage to the pan and add the chicken stock and bacon (regular or turkey bacon). Simmer until the potatoes are tender.
When the potatoes are tender, add the chopped kale.
The kale will wilt down quite a bit.
This is where I realized that I had forgotten to add the carrots earlier so I put them in a microwave safe container, with a little of the chicken stock from the pan, and I cooked them for a few minutes to soften before adding them to the soup. That little bit of extra color adds so much!
Just before serving, stir in the heavy cream and chopped fresh parsley.
How good does that look? Don't forget to taste and adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed. Enjoy!
Items used to make this recipe:
Hearty Tuscan Soup (Zuppa Toscana)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 pound sweet Italian sausage
1 large yellow onion, peeled and diced
2 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/4-inch slices (or dice if you need them to cook faster)
2 large carrots, peeled and minced
1/2 cup chopped cooked bacon
5 cups chicken broth (homemade is best - try my easy recipe here)
3 cups chopped kale (no stems)
1 cup heavy cream
salt and pepper to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
optional: 28 ounces canned cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
Remove sausage from casing if purchased in link form.
In a large pan, heat oil and brown sausage until cooked through, breaking up large clumps as you go; remove from pan and reserve.
In same pan, saute onions in the rendered sausage fat until translucent.
Add potatoes, carrots, sausage, bacon, and chicken broth; simmer over medium heat for 20-30 minutes or until carrots and potatoes are tender.
Add chopped kale; simmer for another 10 minutes.
Stir in heavy cream and adjust salt and pepper if needed.
Stir in chopped parsley and optional cannellini beans just before serving.