Zuppa Toscana Soup

I remember going to Olive Garden as a teenager and wanting to work there solely for the free food. I loved the pasta entrees and the Chicken Parmesan, but my usual order was soup, salad and breadsticks. I would alternate between the Chicken Gnocchi soup and the Zuppa Toscana. Last year, I finally made my way back to an Olive Garden for the first time in probably 8 years and it was just as good as I remembered.

I make soup at least once a week during the winter and found a copycat recipe for Zuppa Toscana. However, something was missing and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it until I experimented on my own; rarely do I strictly follow a recipe. I believe I’ve perfected this and am literally eating leftovers as I type this. Zuppa Toscana in Tuscany is called “Minestra di Pane” which actually translates to “bread soup.” Having the meat, potatoes, and kale – I need nothing to go with this, however, Bryan loves bread with every soup I make so I’ll sometimes make a loaf of French bread for him.

The prep work is minimal, everything goes into one pot and I like to use my ceramic dutch oven for easy clean up. It’s plenty for a family dinner, we typically have enough leftover for another meal or two.

Ingredients:

  • 1-1.5 lbs Italian sausage (I use mild)
  • 1 chopped onion (I use yellow or white)
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (add more for extra spice)
  • Generous pinch of salt and pepper
  • 4-5 cloves garlic (minced)
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 3 cups milk (I use 2%)
  • 2 pounds sliced potatoes (I use russet or red)
  • 1 large bunch kale (roughly 2-3 cups once chopped)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese (I prefer fresh)

Instructions:

1.) Heat large pot or dutch oven over medium-high heat and add sausage. Use a wooden spatula to crumble.

2.) Dice/chop one onion and add to sausage.

3.) Add salt, pepper, and crushed red pepper. Continue cooking for about 8-9 minutes or until the sausage is brown.

4.) Add minced garlic. Sauté for about one minute; until fragrant.

5.) [Optional] Drain the grease using a strainer if there’s a lot of grease. I don’t find there to be a lot of grease so this is based on personal preference.

6.) Turn the heat back on to medium high and stir in 2 tablespoons flour.

7.) Pour 4 cups of chicken broth and stir.

8.) Pour 3 cups of milk and continue stirring.

9.) Clean your potatoes and use a sharp knife or food processor to slice the potatoes coin style. I then cut those into half moon shapes.

10.) Add the potatoes to the pot.

11.) Turn the heat down to medium and bring to a low boil.

12.) Once the soup is simmering, set timer for about 20 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.

13.) Next, wash the kale. Use a knife to cut the leaf from the stems and then cut into small pieces.

14.) Add the kale to the soup.

15.) Add cream and stir gently as to not break up the potatoes. You don’t want to demolish all of your nice tender potatoes. Make sure all of the kale is immersed in the liquid.

16.) Decrease the heat to low and let cook for another 15 minutes, until the kale is soft and wilted.

17.) Final and most important step: Add Parmesan cheese! I grate a block and use extra to garnish.

Buon Appetito!

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