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Friday, November 21, 2014

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana (copycat)

When Aaron and I first met we ate out often. We frequented Applebee's, Chili's, Ruby Tuesday's, and one of my favorites, Olive Garden. Aaron's order was predictable. Almost everywhere we went he ordered chicken tenders and fries, but at Olive Garden that was not an option. He doesn't like salad (or anything in it except for croutons) and he's not a fan of minestrone or pasta y fagioli, but one night he tried their other soup (I know they have chicken gnocchi soup now but at the time they did not), the Zuppa Toscana.

We didn't know what to expect. I was a bit worried it would be some kind of vegetable soup, but as it turns out it's something exactly perfect for Aaron. It's Italian sausage and potatoes in a creamy broth. The only ingredient Aaron won't eat is the kale and he's perfectly happy to eat around it.

Last time we went to Olive Garden (several years ago, the two of us haven't been since Bailey was born) they were out of his soup and he has been sulking about it ever since. Every time I've suggested we go try again he just tells me he's worried they won't have his soup. So I found a recipe online and decided to test it out.

Just so you know, I had put this soup on the menu about two years ago but Aaron was on his "soup is not a meal" kick, but since it's been so cold here lately I finally talked him into trying it. It was a huge hit. He's already asked to have it once a week until further notice so don't be surprised to see it on the menu often in the near future.

Zuppa Toscana

Source:Big Oven

1 lb mild Italian sausage (the ground sausage not the links)
1/4-1/2 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
4 slices bacon, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 white or yellow onion, finely chopped (optional, I left it out)
8 cups chicken broth (that's 2 boxes or 4 cans)
2 cups water
3-4 medium-large russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 cups kale, chopped
white pepper to taste

Heat a large pot over medium heat.

Add the sausage and crushed red pepper flakes to the pan and scramble (crumble, brown) until cooked through and no longer pink. Transfer to a bowl lined with a few paper towels to drain.

Add the bacon to the same pot and cook until it's about half done. Add the garlic and onions and reduce the heat to medium-low.

Here's where I added the garlic since I skipped the onion.

Cook for about 10 minutes, until the onion is mostly cooked and the bacon is pretty crispy.

Once the bacon is crispy add the chicken broth and water to the pot and bring the whole thing to a boil. When the liquid is boiling add the potatoes and reduce to a simmer.

*Side note: It's incredibly difficult to get a picture of a boiling pot of anything. The steam messes with the camera's auto-focus and clouds the whole picture. I'm sorry to leave out a few steps of the process but believe me, the pictures would be completely useless to you if I did include them.

Cook until the potatoes are done. Add the cream and return the sausage to the pot and bring it just to a boil again. (It won't take long almost everything is already hot.)

To serve place a handful of kale in the bottom of each bowl and ladle the hot soup over it. This will wilt the kale just enough to leave it with a little bite and also makes it easier on those who don't eat the kale (cough, cough, Aaron) so they won't have to eat around it or pick it out at the table.

Serve hot with garlic breadsticks, garlic knots, or garlic toast.

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