*UPDATE* – Almost 5 years have gone by since I first posted this, and I’ve changed how we cook this soup a bit. It’s one of our very favorites, and a huge hit with guests and such, so I figured it would be worth posting an updated version both for everyone else, as well as for me to reference when I want to share this. *END UPDATE INTRO*
Some background. My wife loves Olive Garden. My wife lurves Olive garden, more like. If someone says the words “Olive” and “Garden” in the same 3 hour period, she simply has to eat there or she’ll catch fire from wanting it so hard. Seriously. You don’t get it yet, but you’re getting closer. And the only thing she eats there is their Zuppa Toscana. And maybe a breadstick…dipped in the soup. She’s obsessed. So anyway, we’ve been wanting to figure out a way to make it at home for a long time (mostly because their gluten free options for me are none, including the soup) so she can enjoy it without me having to pay $16 for a subpar steak. We went to my cousin’s house for board games and his wife made this soup, and it was intensely tasty so I figured we could make it at home as well. She kindly gave me the recipe, which I then proceeded to ignore in a lot of ways. But we’ll get to that later.
So here’s the soup. It’s not all the way technically paleo, unfortunately, because there are non-sweet potatoes in it. But whatever. It’s still delicious and that starch is far outweighed by delicious sausage and bacon. I guess what makes it still sort of paleo is the fact that all the ingredients are organic, humanely raised, etc. So here’s the recipe, as taken from allrecipes.com and modified by me (edited to our current method as of 2017):
Our family recipe, which we now call “Work Soup” presented as a double batch because we never make a single batch anymore
- 1 pound Beeler’s Hot Italian Sausage Links (slit down the side with casings removed)
- 1 package of Kirkland Signature Thick Cut bacon, cut into 1/2″ pieces (1.5 lbs)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 4 qts of Kirkland Signature Organic Chicken Stock
- 8-10 small-medium Yukon Gold potatoes, cut into bite-sized chunks
- 2 cups heavy cream or half & half if you don’t have cream
- 1 bunch of fresh kale with stems removed and torn into bite-sized piece, or a couple handfuls of frozen kale, if you don’t have fresh
You will need to cook this in a large pot, at least 8 qts. We use an 8qt stock pot, and it is full to the brim when we’re done.
(Okay, that’s the end of the update. Everything after this will be the same from a method perspective, but I’ll be talking about different ingredients and amounts because I was making a single batch with a slightly different recipe. use the ingredients and amounts above while following the method below and you’ll come out just fine.)
So…I guess I kinda barely followed this recipe. Whatever. I do what I want.
Okay, so you take the sausage (Beeler’s mild italian links for us) and put it into a Dutch oven (we have a very nice enameled one we got from some friends as a gift) and put that on the stove over medium-high and cook the sausage until it gets crumbly and brown. If you want it spicier, you would also put the crushed red pepper in there with the sausage. We don’t like spicy, so we got mild sausage and didn’t do pepper. So anyway, cook it until it looks like food. I don’t like putting times on these things because I always get burned by thinking “The recipe said this should take 10 minutes and it’s taken 20 but it doesn’t look right. Oh well, guess I should follow the recipe,” and then I pull the thing off the thing and everything is ruined. Don’t do that. Just cook it until it’s done. If your sausage is anything like my sausage (heh) you’ll end up with some smaller crumbly bits and some larger chunks. That’s all well and good. Just get it cooked through. Now drain it (I didn’t drain mine, but some people like to do things the right way) and pour it into a bowl to be used later.
Now, reduce the stove to medium and put in your bacon bits (Niman Ranch or something similar). Cook until they’re brown and crispy. Again, don’t worry about how long it takes, just cook them until they’re right. You’ll be much happier for it. Once your bacon is crispy, toss in your diced onion and minced garlic (Like I know what those words mean, right? Just cut them up into sizes you’d be happy to have in your soup.) and cook until the onions get clear and soft.
Pour in your stock. I got those cartons of organic chicken stock from Costco and used two of them, so I guess that’s like…2 quarts? Sounds about right. Now bring it to a boil over high heat. When you get to a boil, you can back it off to medium high (you could leave it on high, but I always back my stuff off so they don’t boil over) and put in your potatoes, cut into chunks. I sliced mine into like 1/16″ slices because that’s what my box grater thingy has available. It was too thin. Something in the neighborhood of 1/4″ thick is more what you want, and then cut them into quarters or something so you have nice, bite-sized chunks of potato. That’s definitely what I’ll be doing next time. Keep in mind, I used 6 very tiny (Not much bigger than an egg) potatoes for this recipe, and the potato ratio turned out pretty well. If you’re using giant russets, you probably only need like 2-3 at the very most. There’s plenty of sausage and bacon in this soup to keep it rib-sticking without going nuts on potatoes. Now boil those potatoes until they’re cooked through. Just keep stirring every so often and checking them. As long as you keep it at a boil and you have reasonable chunks, it shouldn’t take too long to cook them through.
Now, reduce the heat back to medium, then you add in the cup of heavy cream (I used Organic Valley heavy cream from pastured cows because it’s amazing) and add back in your sausage. Let that work for a while so you can wash and break up your kale. You just pull the leaves off the stems and then tear them into smallish pieces. It shouldn’t take long. I added a little more kale than whatever I think 1/4 bunch is supposed to be (though I take issue with ‘bunch’ as a unit of measure. Bunches be different sizes, homie.) and my soup turned out just fine. It’s also a great way to eat kale, so there’s that. Okay, now your soup is heated through. Add your pieces of kale. I let it sit and soften for a couple minutes, but honestly the longer the soup sat on my stove in the dutch oven, the better it tasted, so you could probably add the kale, take the pot off the heat, and let it sit for about 10 minutes or so, and it would be amazing. That’s what I’ll do next time.
Also, you can top with some shredded parmesan, if you have any available. It’s awesome.
Okay, that’s it. I didn’t take pictures because I never take pictures my first time through a process, lest it turn out to be incredibly embarrassing for me. We both LOVED this soup, though. I was really worried that there would be too much of it for us to finish, but I ate three big bowls last night and brought another bowl to work for lunch today. It will definitely be going into the rotation, and the next time through there will be pictures.