So years ago my wife fell in love with Zuppa Tuscana soup from Olive Garden… One evening as we sat at Olive garden, she said, “Here try this!” and gave me some of her soup… I thought, “Good… I could probably make this…” I said so, and she held me to it… two weeks, half a dozen trips to Olive Garden to have some more soup, and I came up with a basic recipe for it… And now you have it!
1 Pound Spicy Sausage (or 1 lb sweet with 1-2 tsp crushed red chili peppers added)
1 Large Yellow or Sweet Onion, diced
2-3 Cloves of Garlic, diced
1 cup coarse chopped Green Kale
1/4 cup diced Fresh Basil (or 1 Tbsp dried)
1 Quart Chicken Stock
1 Quart Water
2-3 Russet or Yukon Gold Potatoes, peeled and cut in to cubes
1 1/2 cup Heavy Whipping Cream
1 Tbsp Dried Thyme
6-8 pieces of bacon
Salt and Pepper
Use a large stock pot and fry the bacon up. Remove it to a plate. Keep the bacon fat in the pan. Fry sausage in the same pan. Remove the sausage and leave the fat in the pan. Add the onion to the pan. Salt with about 1 tsp or so of salt. Cook until translucent. Add the garlic and cook for another minute. Add the dried herbs and Kale. Add a pinch or salt and cook until softened (1-3 minutes). Add the fresh herbs. Add enough flour by hand to soak up the remaining fat in the pan and stir for about 1-2 minutes.
Add the chicken stock and water and stir. Add the potatoes. Add a pinch of salt and a bit of fresh ground pepper. Cover and cook on Medium heat for about 45 minutes, or until potatoes are "fork tender". Add sausage and cream and cook for ten more minutes. Stir in bacon. Dish up immediately or leave on warm for an hour or two. Serve in bowls topped with fresh grated parmesana reggiano or regular parmesan. Chiffinad some of the kale and/or fresh basil and garnish with that also.
So where has this soup gone now that I’ve been making it for a while…? Well, I don’t use a recipe anymore… I just kind of “make it by taste”. My current recipe changes a few things for my spin on the soup… a thicker, almost chowder-like sausage and potato soup.
I start by caramelizing onions… This is a great way to start just about any meal… I usually use bacon fat with some butter, about 50/50 (I said great tasting, not low-fat!). I deglaze the pan with some water, and dump everything in to a crockpot. I chuck in some homemade chicken-stock, and 2-3 large potatoes cubed small, add either some finely diced smoked sausage (yes, smoked on premises), or some browned ground sausage with crushed red chilies and a touch of maple syrup. I let this all cook for 4-6 hours on high with some spices (I like basil and oregano, sometimes with a bit of bay leaf). Once done, I add some cream, a touch of nutmeg (can’t taste it, but helps with the “sweet cream” flavor), a Tbsp of Agave, and a couple grinds of black pepper. The last step I do is to add a bit of cold water and cornstarch “slurry”. I use about 2 Tbsp of cornstarch and about 4 Tbsp on water, mixed with a wisk. Wisk that in to the soup, let it cook for about 5-10 minutes (will thicken fast, don’t over do it, or you’ll have stew!)… Server and listen to the ooohs and aaahs!