So it’s like 8 degrees outside today or something ridiculous like that. Brr. So what to do for dinner? Soup of course! And today I have one of my favorites for you. It’s one of my standards for busy weeknights and also a dish I’ve served proudly to company. This would be my Zuppa Toscana.
Yep, that Zuppa Toscana. The one from The Olive Garden that we all love so much? The one that we get before dinner arrives and then sheepishly order a second bowl of and are then are too full to eat the actual meal we ordered? That would be this. I am a HUGE fan of this soup for a number of reasons:
1) Everyone LOVES this soup. I mean it. Everyone. Except for my 8 year old whom we know does not eat anything that is not some mixture of cheese, white flour, and sugar. But other than her – seriously, everyone asks for this recipe.
2) It’s gluten free which means everyone in my house can eat it without making any modifications.
3) It’s super easy. You make the whole thing in one pot in about half an hour.
4)It’s actually pretty healthy and lower calorie than you would expect. With chicken broth as the base and a whopping 8 cups of antioxidant-rich kale, this soup is a winner all around.
5) It’s cheap. No explanation necessary.
We’re gonna start by grabbing a large pot and frying up some bacon nice and crisp over medium heat. I may have had the heat a bit too high to start here. You’ll notice all the pieces have been cut into inch long bits to make it easier to fry them in the pot. They’re just going to be crumbled in the end anyway.
Once the bacon’s done, remove it from the pot and set on a paper towel lined plate to drain. Next we’re going to add 4 spicy Italian sausage patties. We’re going for 1 1/2 cups total crumbled sausage. I use our store brand (Wegmans) Spicy Italian Sausage Patties. Pick a sausage that you love because it’s going to provide a lot of the flavor for your soup. Just make sure it’s gluten free first if that is of concern to you. Brown the sausage, remove to a bowl, and set aside for now.
You’ve now got lots of wonderful brownness stuck to the bottom of your pot. We’re going to saute some diced onion in all that mess to soak up the awesome flavor. Oh, and three cloves of minced garlic. Not shown. Oops. Add that in for the last 60 seconds of cook time.
Meanwhile, we’re going to take a few potatoes and slice them up thinly. These are Yukon Golds, halved and then thinly sliced.
Terrible shot. I know. In for the sake of completeness only :p
We’re going to add our potatoes and 8 cups of chicken broth and bring our soup up to a boil over Medium High heat. Obviously the soup in this shot is not boiling. Why I even took this picture is beyond me. Anyway. Once boiling, turn down the heat to low and let simmer for about 10 minutes, or until the potatoes are fork tender. The time will depend on how thinly your potatoes are sliced.
While our soup is cooking we’re gonna roughly chop up some kale. I like a LOT of kale in my soup – like 8 cups. You may say four is more than enough. Just make sure the pieces are not so large that they can’t be picked up by a spoon. This picture shows the pre-chopped kale. This is the second batch to be chopped – I actually used at least twice the amount shown.
Now, add the bacon, sausage, and kale into your soup. We only want to wilt the kale, not cook it. That’s why it goes in at the very end. It looks at first like there is way too much kale and then in a minute or so it will wilt and diminish into the rest of the soup.
Lastly we add 1/2 cup of heavy cream. Stir the soup around and leave it on low heat for a few minutes to ensure it’s heated through. We don’t want to bring it back up to a boil, just nice and steamy hot for serving.
And voila! Zuppa Toscana just like from the Olive Garden! Quick, easy, cheap, and so so flavorful. Hearty without being overly caloric, it’s the perfect wintertime dinner. Serve with some crusty bread (gluten free of course, if that’s your thing) and maybe a hunk of good cheddar cheese and some crisp apples. Divine!
6 slices bacon, pre-cut into 1″ bits
4 Spicy Italian Sausage Patties
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, diced
4 Yukon Gold Potatoes, halved and thinly sliced
8 cups chicken broth
8 cups roughly chopped kale (or less to your taste)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Prepare your onions, potatoes, bacon, garlic, and kale. Doing this now makes the whole process go smoother.
In a large pot over medium heat cook bacon until crisp. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Set aside.
Add sausage to pot, breaking up with a spatula until crumbled and browned. Remove to a bowl and set aside.
Add diced onion, scraping the bottom with a spatula to loosen up the brown bits on the bottom of the pot. Cook until onions are soft, about 5 minutes. Add in the garlic for the last minute of cook time.
Add potatoes and chicken broth to pot and turn the heat up to medium-high. Bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, cover, and let simmer for 10 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
Add kale, sausage, and bacon to soup. Let cook on low heat for about 2 minutes, until the kale starts to wilt.
Add the heavy cream. Stir to incorporate and leave on low heat for a couple minutes just to get the soup back up to serving temp.
Makes about 12 servings.