The Olive Garden restaurant connection:
Toscana (Tuscany) is an Italian province north of Roma. Perhaps the most famous cities in the province are Firenze (Florence) and Pisa. But tourists have also been enchanted by the beautiful beach towns along the coast of Toscana. Olive Garden makes a soup they call zuppa toscana, but as far as I can tell, there is no real relationship between soups served in Toscana and their soup. I think they just named the soup "zuppa (soup) toscana", because it sounds Italian. But I like the Olive Garden soup and decided years ago to make something similar. I have been making changes ever since. So, let me say up front, if you are expecting to get the Olive Garden soup, this will not be it. In fact, I personally think this is a richer and much heartier soup. I hope you enjoy the changes I have made.
Ingredients (6 servings):
- 1 pound – mild Italian sausage
- 1 – medium onion, diced
- 10 slices – bacon (normal cut – not thick or thin)
- 1 pound – button mushrooms, diced
- 2 cloves – garlic, minced
- 3 cups – chicken broth
- 2 cups – water
- 2 – large potatoes cut in half lengthwise and then cut into ½ inch pieces (leave the peeling on but wash the potato well before cutting)
- 2 cups – kale leaves, chopped
- ½ cup – heavy whipping cream
- Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Place the sausage links in a baking dish and cook for about 25 minutes until browned and fully cooked. Cut in half lengthwise and then make diagonal cuts every ½ inch. Set aside. Meanwhile place the onions and bacon in a large saucepan over medium heat and cook until the onions are translucent and the bacon is cooked but not crisp. Remove the bacon, dice, and set aside.
Add the mushrooms immediately after you remove the bacon and increase the heat to high. Cook the mushrooms and onions until all the water is gone (do not brown). Lower the heat to medium and add the garlic and cook for one minute. Add the chicken broth, water and potatoes, cover the pan, and continue to cook on medium heat for 30 minutes.
After the broth and potatoes have been added.
Add the bacon, sausage, and kale and cook for another 10 minutes in the covered pan.
In case you are unfamiliar with kale, here is a picture.
Before the cream is added.
When there is only 4 minutes left, add the cream. Serve hot. Enjoy!