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I first got the idea to make this soup because I’d had it at Olive Garden and really liked it a lot. So I went into the scary world of the Intarwebz!! *spooky fingers and ominous tones implied* I found a recipe that claimed to be just like Olive Gardens and seemed simple enough. It was ok. Not great, kinda mediocre, but it showed promise. I knew what I needed to do to make it good!

This is so savory and fully of potato-y, sausage-y, creamy, crunchy goodness! This is always a hit with everyone from the first meal you cook for your boyfriend and his grandparents to a fun night in with the roommate (ilu, Bekah!), and even can be easily doubled to make enough to send a pot off as a meal for a down on their luck family. It can be adapted so easily to work for whatever size group you have (just toss in an extra potato or two and another cup of water with a little boullion!) Another great thing about it is that if you buy two things of sausage, you have all the ingredients for two pots. You only use half of the onion anyway and everything else works out perfect for that…

 

Thellie’s Zuppa Toscana

1 package Italian sausage (I use a tube of Bob Evans’, but links work, too – just bias cut them before you add it back in)

6 slices bacon (I use Oscar Meyer Center Cut bacon – it’s leaner, a little thicker and seems to have a better flavor over all – there is a noticeable difference when I use other bacon)

1 medium onion, chopped (about ¾ cup or half of a large Vidalia)

2-3 cloves garlic, finely minced (or just buy a jar of pre-minced garlic and use a good size spoonful – it’s easier, no noticeable taste difference and you have enough chopping to do as it is)

1 quart water (or enough to just about cover the potatoes – can you tell I cook more by feel than by exact measurements usually?)

2 tablespoons instant bouillon granules (I use Wyler’s and highly suggest you don’t use the paste gunk – too salty by far!)

6 med-lg. red potatoes sliced ¼ inch (make sure your potatoes are good sized, cut out imperfections and eyes ahead of time and don’t forget to scrub them good. I leave the skin on because I like the flavor and texture. Some people don’t. Your call. You can substitute regular potatoes if you like, but I prefer the flavor of the reds.)

2 cups shredded kale (you can substitute other dark greens – but not spinach unless you want it bitter. I recommend sticking with the kale, though)

1/8-1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional, though highly recommended – I leave it out when I’m cooking for my dad, use about 1/8tsp. for me and use ¼-1/3 tsp when cooking for my guys. So temper it to your audience’s palate.)

1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

In large pot or Dutch oven, cook sausage thoroughly, crumbling well.

Set sausage aside to drain on paper towels over a plate.

Add bacon to pot, cooking thoroughly before crumbling and setting aside with sausage. (Bacon could also be cooked in a frying pan while sausage is cooking to save time, but dirties and extra dish.)

In same large pot, retain 1tbsp. bacon fat and add onions and cook over medium heat until softened and mostly translucent.

Add garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Add water, bouillon, and potatoes.

Bring to boiling, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes or until potatoes are tender and start to break up when pot is stirred.

Return sausage and crumbled bacon to the pot.

Add the kale and crushed red pepper flakes.

Simmer for 4 minutes to reheat the meats and wilt the greens a bit.

Stir in the cream and cook until heated thoroughly – DO NOT LET IT BOIL AGAIN (it tends to turn the cream)

 

Makes ~6 dinner sized servings and goes great with a light salad and dinner rolls. Takes about an hour to make from start to finish and has just the right amount of time while cooking to make the additions to dinner, set the table, and then call everyone in while the cream is being incorporated so that you can serve it hot off the stove. I do love recipes with considerate cooking times like that! ^_^

I make this regularly and if you ever have dinner at my place or I cook for you, this is probably what I’m making since I know the recipe by heart. I even travel with my own bouillon, pepper flakes and knives so I can make it on the spur of the moment without too much excess ingredients.

  (I'll try to get a better pic up next time I make this.  This batch was done in my dorm 2 years ago.)