Italian Sausage, Potato and Kale Soup
aka Zuppa Toscana
4 thick slices applewood smoked bacon, chopped
1 pound bulk Italian sausage
1 large sweet onion, diced
4 large cloves garlic, minced
2 teaspoons Kosher salt
2 teaspoons dried Greek oregano
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 quart chicken stock
1 cup half and half
1 cup water
2 large Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
1 bunch lacinato kale, tough stems removed, finely chopped
Fresh ground black pepper
Crushed red pepper flakes
Heat large, heavy-bottomed pot over medium-high heat. Add bacon and fry until most of the fat is rendered and the pork is somewhat crisp. Drain the bacon on paper towels and set aside. Pour off most of the fat from the pot, leaving the bottom just coated. Add the Italian sausage to the pot and cook for 4 or 5 minutes, breaking it into chunks with a wooden spoon, until no longer pink.
Add the onions, garlic, salt, oregano and basil and continue to cook until the onion is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the potatoes and stir to combine. Pour in the chicken stock (it should be enough to cover the potatoes and meat – if not, add an extra cup of stock or water) and bring to a boil. Cook until the potatoes are soft, 8 to 10 minutes (test one with a fork). Remove from heat.
Pour in half and half and water and stir to heat through. Toss in the kale and stir until slightly wilted (if there is too much kale and not enough broth, add water by the 1/2-cup and stir through until the soup is at desired consistency).
Top with the reserved bacon and serve with fresh ground black pepper and crushed red pepper flakes, as desired.
This is an updated lighter version of one of our favorite soups. I have eliminated the heavy cream and lowered the amount of half and half (partially substituted with water). I also omitted the pancetta and I now pour off all the bacon fat in the beginning… and it’s STILL all pork-fatty with that tinge of yellow creamy goodness in the broth. You just can’t go wrong with sausage and bacon to start this dish. Please.
So yeah, I keep adjusting this one and it’s now lightened up to suit our healthier tendencies. It is simple and quick, yet still awesomely delicious and still very close to our memories of the popular Zuppa Toscana from Olive Garden, a favorite from my and Steve’s early years.
Note: my homemade Italian sausage is rather fennely, so if you use a store bought version that doesn’t have any, I recommended adding a couple of teaspoons of crushed fennel seeds when you add the sausage to the pot.