OK I hate to admit it but you know we have all been there…yup that franchise of franchises. The one that many young men take their ladies to, or son’s take their mothers too, or maybe its Sunday lunch…yup…you know it…The Olive Garden. I have definitely been there my share of times over the years for all the above, plus a few more. The bottom line is that The Olive Garden is popular for a reason, it really isn’t all that bad. The pasta, the wine selection, heck, in suburbs and not-so-cosmopolitan towns it is THE place to eat. My favorite? I don’t remember ANY other items EXCEPT the Soup and Salad combo which has been digested many Sundays after church (years ago of course). I always order the Zuppa Toscana, and of course soaked it up with the never ending supply of bread-sticks and salad. Was the cheapest and frankly the best deal at the big O.
So, I figured I would to my best to try and re-create it. I have made it several times and have had rave reviews. I am sure there are other “copy cat” recipes out there, I promise I didn’t use for research. This is a legit recipe and although may not be exactly what you are used to after waiting in line for 90 minutes, I promise it is close…if not better.
Zuppa Toscana – Inspired by Olive Garden
1 lb Italian Sausage (sweet, probably not hot if you are trying to stay authentic)
4 slices of bacon, diced
4 cups of Water
4 cups of Chicken Stock
2 large Russet Potatoes, diced thin
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 medium onion, finely diced
2 cups kale (swiss chard, spinach, even mustard greens cool too)
1 cup heavy cream
Kosher salt and Freshly Cracked Pepper
Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano for grating
Remove sausage from casings and break apart. Brown with bacon and set aside. Saute garlic and onion for about 3-5 minutes over medium heat. Add stock, water, and potatoes and let simmer at least 10 minutes or until potatoes are mostly tender. Add meat and let simmer at least another 15 minutes. Add kale and cream, let simmer for about 5 minutes (minimum) and season with salt and pepper.