Introduction: Tuscan Soup in Time for Winter
Here in Wisconsin where I live, it is starting to get cold outside (although still not nearly as cold as it should be this time of year). And there is nothing better than getting home after a long, cold day in the Wisconsin cheese mines (or a college campus) and having a nice hot bowl of Tuscan soup. I make the recipe in this Instructable at least once per week because it is my absolute favorite type of soup, especially in the wintertime. This hearty soup features a blend of Italian sausage, fingerling potatoes, and kale in a slightly-spicy cream sauce. It is guaranteed to warm you up and satisfy both your appetite and your taste buds.
Step 1: Recipe Nutrition
Before making the soup in this Instructable, I thought you might be interested in having some information about the soup's nutrition. So, I made a standard nutrition facts table by using a couple of online tools (like this one) to look up the nutritional information of all the individual ingredients and then calculate the nutritional information for the entire recipe. From there, I just divided the information into two-cup serving sizes and ended up with the nutrition facts table below:
|Serving Size: 2 cups|
|Amout Per Serving|
Admittedly, it is not the most healthful soup in the world, but it is high in protein and a whole range of vitamins and minerals so you could also do worse. Plus, it tastes absolutely fantastic, as you will see very soon. For those of you who use the Weight Watchers program, one serving of this soup is worth 16 points.
Step 2: Ingredients
Below is a shopping list of ingredients you will need to make your Tuscan Soup:
|Italian Sausage||1 pound|
|White Onion||1 large|
|Heavy Cream||1 cup|
|Fingerling Potatos||1 1/2 pound|
|Kale||1 cup chopped|
|Chicken Buillion||Enough for 10 cups broth|
|Red Pepper Flakes||1 teaspoon|
|Black Pepper||1/2 teaspoon|
|Garlic Puree||2 teaspoons|
You will also need a bit of equipment, nothing too fancy though:
- A sharp knife and cutting board
- Some measuring cups and spoons
- A pot with a capacity of at least three quarts
- A spoon
Step 3: Prepare the Potatoes
First off, hand wash all of the potatoes by hand under cool running water. Since potatoes come out of the ground and are usually (especially in the case of fingerling potatoes) stored on grocery store shelves in non-airtight packaging, it is a good precaution to wash the potatoes before you eat them to rince off any dirt or other contaminates. Just rub the potato in your fingers under cool running water (don't make the water so cool that it makes your hands too uncomfortable).
Second, get some kind of bowl or dish and fill it half-way with cold water. We will be putting the sliced potatoes into this water so they don't oxidize and turn brown as we do the next couple steps in the recipe.
Third, slice the fingerling potatoes into medallions 1/4 to 1/2 inch in thickness. Now, you might be thinking that we should peel the potatoes first, which I agree you would probably do with other kinds of potatoes, but there are a number of reasons not to peel fingerling potatoes:
- Since the potatoes are so small, peeling them can be dangerous. You might end up peeling your fingers too.
- The skin on fingerling potatoes is much thinner and softer than the skin on other kinds of potatoes. So, especially after we boil them for a while, the skin will be plenty tender to eat.
- Potato skins, like the skins of many fruits and vegetables, actually contain a lot of nutrients.
- It takes a really long time to peel one and a half pounds of fingerling potatoes.
Once you are done slicing all of the potatoes, move on to the next step.
Step 4: Brown the Italian Sausage
After all of the potatoes have been slices and are waiting patiently in cold water, we can move on to the Italian sausage.
If your Italian sausage came in casing like mine did, the first step will be to remove the loose meat from inside the casing. This is really easy to do. Just slice each link down the length of one side. Then, just peel off the casing and you will be left with loose Italian sausage, which is what we want. Just a note of caution, don't put the casings into your garbage disposal because they are fairly tough and could get stuck inside the disposal. Just throw the casings in the trash instead.
Next, put all of the Italian sausage into a frying pan or the same pot you are going to be making the soup in, and brown it. Make sure all of the sausage is thoroughly cooked and no pink parts remain. Even though meat in the U.S. is quite clean and despite all you hear about not eating undercooked meat, the chances of getting sick are actually quite low. But, raw pork can contain the parasite, Trichinella spiralis, so it is always best to cook all meat well.
After the sausage is cooked, drain the excess fat. Then, since we will require the services of our cooking vessel for the next step, put the sausage into a bowl to be reintroduced into the soup a little later.
Before going on to the next step though, make sure you wash your hands, knife, cutting board, spoon, and whatever else could have come into contact with the raw pork. It is always best to avoid cross-contamination of raw meat into other foods.
Step 5: Sweat the Garlic and Onion
After all of the Italian sausage is cooked, it is time to work with the onion and garlic.
The first thing to do is prepare the onion. But, before we get started with that, if your eyes are particularly sensitive to the chemicals in onions that make your eyes tear up, I recommend picking up some Onion Goggles. My eyes are extremely sensitive to onions, to the point that I can't even be in the same room as someone dicing onions, but the Onion Goggles work very very well for me and they certainly make cooking with onions much easier, safer, and more enjoyable. Anyway, the first thing to do is cut the ends off the onion. Then, peel off the papery outer layer. Unlike the skins of our fingerling potatoes, the outer skin on onions has no nutritional value at all.
With the onion peeled, it is time to break out our knife again. First cut the onion in half. Stick one half into a bag and put it away for use in another recipe, or the next time you make this soup, and focus your attention on the remaining half. If you own one of those slam-choppers, they probably work quite well for dicing onions. But if you don't have one of those (I don't) use your knife to dice the onion into moderately small pieces. If you feel somewhat confident with your knife skills, there is a technique you can use to make very quick work of dicing an onion. Check out this video to learn it. Otherwise, just chop of the onion using whatever knife-wielding technique you like.
Next, put the diced onion,along with the garlic puree (2 tsp) into a frying pan or the pot you are going to cook your soup in later and sweat them until they are soft and translucent. If you are not familiar with sweating onions, it is very easy. Just put the diced onions into your cooking vessel over medium-low heat and cover them. Stir them around occasionally until the pieces are soft and translucent.
Step 6: Add the Chicken Broth, Potatoes, Kale, and Other Ingredients
This is the part of the process when your soup will finally start looking like soup. After the onions and garlic are done sweating, pour eight cups of hot water into the pot and set your stove to high heat. Then, add however many bouillon cubes or packets you need to make 10 cups of broth. I find that the soup tastes better with a slightly stronger chicken broth as its base. Stir the liquid until all of the bouillon is dissolved.
After the bouillon is dissolved, add in all of your potatoes. Don't just pour them in though, first of all we don't want the water they have been sitting in all this time, and we also don't want to splash the hot chicken broth everywhere. Instead, carefully spoon the potatoes into the pot.
Once all of the potatoes are in the broth, add the kale, red pepper flakes, black pepper, oregano, and parsley. Then, boil the potatoes. The time required to cook the potatoes depends on your potatoes and how aggressively you boil them, the best way to know when they are done is not to time them, instead, ever so often, take out a potato medallion and poke it with a knife. The knife should go in with just a little resistance. You could also just wait a minute for the potato piece to cool and eat it.
Step 7: Add Everything Else and Tweak
The soup is just about done! Once the potatoes are nice and tender, add the sausage to the pot. Then, heat the mixture just until the sausage has been reheated, then, turn the heat down to low and add the heavy cream (1 cup). Mix the soup together until everything is well blended.
Then, give the soup a little taste. You might be perfectly happy with the taste, in which case you are done. But, you might also find that you want the soup to have a bit more salt, or a little more spiciness. One of the best parts about making soup is experimenting with it. Feel free to add any other ingredients you want. Many people, and also the restaurant, Olive Garden, add bacon to this soup. I tend not to in an effort to keep the soup just a bit more healthful, but bacon can add a nice new dimension to the flavor.
Step 8: Serve and Enjoy
Congratulations, all your hard work has paid off and now it is time to eat! Just use a ladle to dish out the soup and enjoy. This soup goes very well with some nice yeast rolls or garlic bread sticks. Thanks for reading!