At the Table

Hearty Zuppa Toscana

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Across the Atlantic, I’m sure there are Italians confused by this thing Americans call Zuppa Toscana – a creamy broth studded with potatoes and sausage and marked by the dark green of just barely wilted kale.  Zuppa is Italian for soup, so what we’re calling this amazing meal in a bowl is, essentially, Tuscan Soup.  That’s like saying East Coast Soup, when what we really mean is New England Clam Chowder.  I don’t know about you, but I think it deserves a better name.  Still working on that, though.  Instead, I’ve been too busy trying to remember to write down my recipe for this soup (and take pictures) every time I make it.  Since mid-Autumn, I’ve made this soup at least once a month, and every time, I get caught up in the cooking and tweaking, and forget to pay attention to how much of anything is in it.  I think I’ve got it this time, though.  Except for the herbs.  Maybe one day I’ll learn to measure those…

Also, for those of you who have eaten at a particular Italian restaurant chain and heard of a soup with this name, this is not that soup.  Maybe it was, once (I’ve never tried theirs so I don’t even know), and it certainly has some of the same ingredients, but I’ve changed the recipe I began with enough that, if anything, this is the (distant?) Italian cousin of their Zuppa.

Hearty Zuppa Toscana (serves 4-6 as a main course, 6-8+ as a side)

1 pound hot sausage (I use loose sausage in rolls)

Olive oil

1/2 large yellow onion, diced

2 cloves minced garlic

2 dried peperoncini, crushed, or 1 t. red pepper flakes

1-2 t. herbs – my favorites are oregano and crushed rosemary.

1/4 cup bacon bits or finely chopped bacon

8 -10 c. sodium-free chicken stock (I’ve also used half water)

2 cups cooked, shredded chicken

4 red potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces (no need to peel)

4 cups chopped kale

2/3 c. heavy cream

Salt and pepper, to taste

In a dutch oven or large saucepan, brown the sausage.  Remove from pan, keeping the grease.  If needed, add a little olive oil to the pan to equal 1-2 T.  Over medium heat, saute the onion, garlic, red pepper, herbs, and bacon, until the onion is translucent.  Add 6 c. chicken stock and shredded chicken, and bring to a boil.  Add the potatoes, and additional stock or water as needed to keep the soup brothy enough.  When the potatoes are nearing fork-tenderness, mix the kale and cooked sausage into the soup.   Simmer for 5 minutes, until the kale is soft.  Remove from heat and stir in the heavy cream.  Season with salt or pepper to taste, and serve immediately.  This soup is immensely more attractive when freshly made, but the leftovers taste just as good.

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