Friday, January 13, 2012

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana: an illustrated recipe

Y'all know how I love a good illustrated recipe, right? Well I've got one for you. This is what my son requested for supper tonight. It's his favorite and I love it when I can do something special for him. He's 13, you know, and lately, everything I do gets a dramatic eye roll, but not this soup. Personally, I think he wants to kiss me after I make it, but instead he flashes that cute grin at me, eats 2 or 3 bowls full and I'm a happy momma.

This is my version of a soup called Zuppa Toscana and it's served at The Olive Garden. The Olive Garden isn't my favorite restaurant, I'm more of a Carino's kind of girl, but they do make a mean soup and paired with their salad, it's a perfect meal. I found the recipe by doing a search about 10 years ago and found that there are a lot of versions out there. Whatever version I started with, I've tweaked it into what I'm sharing today.

Here's a group shot of all the participants.

There's 1 lb sausage, 6 strips of bacon, an onion, a clove of garlic, 2 medium baking potatoes, a quart of chicken broth, 1/3 cup whipping cream, 2 cups of kale.

Start by browning the sausage and setting it aside.

Take your onion, dice it and add it to your soup pot. Next, take 6 slices of bacon and cut them into one or two inch pieces. Add this to the onion and brown until the onion is translucent. Don't you love that word? Translucent. It's almost too fancy a word to describe the color of an onion.

Once your onion is, say it with me, translucent, add the garlic and cook another minute.

Here's a little something I've learned with garlic. The only garlic I could find was a couple of cloves in the bottom of my fruit bowl. They had become quite accustomed to that bowl and were getting ready to sprout when I so rudely decided to use them for my soup. See that little sprout coming out?

Some people may not be bothered by such things, but I find them to be a little bitter. So here's what I do. I just cut the suckers in half and remove that sprout. They come out pretty easily. Then I just dice as normal and add them to the pot.


Mmmm, here's the bacon, onion and garlic cooking away and making my kitchen smell like Italian heaven.

How you do this next part is entirely up to you. You can add a quart of water and then add whatever chicken bouillon you prefer, or you can just add a box, or can, of chicken broth. I started out with the water and bouillon method and later added some broth from a box to make more because I have a big family and they like to eat soup.

This is the bouillon I like to use, for what it's worth.

Unfortunately, I was down to only a couple of tablespoons and I was having a hard time getting the last tablespoon out of the jar because this stuff is pretty pasty. If this ever happens to you, just add a few spoonfuls of your broth to the jar, screw the lid on tight, and shake, shake, shake.

Then you can just pour that last bit out. Viola! But you probably already knew that.

Now that the broth is going and getting hot, take the potatoes and cut them first lengthwise, and then into 1/4 inch slices. Add these to the broth and let it simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, get the kale ready to add. This is kale.

If you're not familiar with kale, it's a leafy green vegetable that's full of vitamins and minerals and I think might even be a super food. It's really dense, but when you add it to this soup, it softens and turns a beautiful bright green color and frankly, makes the whole soup.

The kale I bought was organic and therefore covered in dirt. I decided to cut the leaves away from the stem and then rinse them in the sink. The stems are really fibrous and tough.

After you've rinsed the leaves, roll them up and cut them into slices. This is called chiffonade. I don't know if you can put an 'ing' on the end of that word, but that's what it's called. Another fun word to say if you want to impress people. But basically it's just an easy way of slicing a leafy green so you don't have to slice each individual leaf. Just gather up as much as you can and roll it all together and start slicing.

You'll end up with something like this.

As a side note, I have found that you can't buy just a little kale. It's sold in big bunches and you may not use it all the first go around. If that's the case, my friend Ali has a recipe for you. She's the co-author of The Cleaner Plate Club blog in my sidebar and the book by the same name and she makes the yummiest kale chips. I've witnessed several small people in my house literally fight over them until they were gone, 2.5 seconds after I set the plate down!

Here's where I decided I didn't make near enough soup and added a box of chicken broth. This is where I also realized that most of the sausage I had set aside to add at the end had been eaten. I know what you're thinking. And there's nothing I love more than crumbly sausage, but I didn't eat it all. I'm not the only one living in this house, you know. No worries, I just browned another tube of it and added that to the soup. It needed to be doubled anyway.

There. That's much better.

At the end of 15 minutes, the potatoes should be done since they were sliced so thinly. Doesn't that look delectable?

I know it does, but there are 2 key ingredients left to add before it's really ready. It's time to add a cup  1/3 cup whipping cream and the kale strips.

Here it is, folks. A veritable souply masterpiece!

And here's Mr. Park, eating the kale outta this soup!

Here's the recipe all written out:

Pam's version of The Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

1 lb. sausage
6 strips of bacon, cut into 2 inch pieces
1 onion, diced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 medium baking potatoes
1 quart of water and chicken bouillon or 1 quart chicken broth
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 cups of kale

Brown sausage in a skillet. Drain and set aside.

In a large pan, saute bacon and diced onion until onions are translucent. Add minced garlic and cook for another minute. Add broth.

Cut potatoes lengthwise and then into 1/4 inch slices. Add to broth and simmer for 15 minutes.

While the soup is simmering, cut the kale into strips. After 15 minutes, add sausage, kale strips and cream.

Serve while hot.

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Anonymous said...

Sausage AND bacon??? Whew! Great for a cold night, I bet.

pamelotta said...

It's so warm and delicious! John just found out the other day that he can get it at Olive Garden. I shouldn't have told him.