This is a recipe for Olive Garden's famous and well-loved Zuppa Toscana Soup. Most copy-cat recipes I have seen call for heavy cream. This version uses half and half, making it slightly healthier.
1 lb Italian sausage (mild or spicy)
4 strips bacon, chopped (optional)
3 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed clean and cubed (leave peels on)
1 large onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups kale, chopped
1 (32 oz) box chicken broth
1 quart half and half (can mix heavy cream with milk)
Crushed red pepper flakes, to taste (may not need if using spicy Italian sausage)
Step 1: Cook Sausage and Bacon
In a large soup pot over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking into small pieces. Drain fat and set aside.
In the same pot over medium-high heat, cook the bacon, breaking into small pieces. Remove and set aside, leaving 2 Tablespoons of bacon fat in the pot (this will be used later to saute the vegetables).
Step 2: Saute Vegetables
While sausage and bacon are cooking, you can prep the vegetables. After removing bacon from pot, add diced potatoes, onions, and garlic.
Saute vegetables in the rendered bacon fat over medium or low-medium heat.
Cook until the onions begins to turn translucent and potatoes have softened a little.
Step 3: Add Chicken Broth
Add the chicken broth, sausage and bacon into the pot.
Bring to a simmer and continue to cook until potatoes are just about done.
Step 4: Add Kale
Add the chopped kale into the pot and stir to incorporate.
Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes, or until kale and potatoes are done.
*NOTE: Can use a fork to test if potatoes are done. If potatoes slide off the fork cleanly, they are done. If they do not come off cleanly, cook for a few more minutes.
Step 5: Add Half and Half
Add the half and half to the mixture.
Heat through over medium heat.
*NOTE: This is where I added the crushed red pepper flakes. If added earlier on, allowing to cook with all the flavors for a long time, it brings out much more heat. I like my soup spicy, but not too spicy.
Step 6: Serve and Enjoy
Serve and enjoy every last drop!
*NOTE: This soup is even better when served with bread sticks or garlic bread.