Sunday, March 1, 2009

A Healthier "Zuppa Toscana" for Souper Sunday

My trip to Portland last month gave me some good bonding time with my sister, niece and Mom as we drove down to Eugene to take my niece back to college. She picked the lunch spot; The Olive Garden, and the unending soup, salad and bread sticks they are known for. It would not really have been my top choice, our green salad was more white than green (yikes!), but I do have to say I love their "Zuppa Toscana"; a soup full of spicy sausage, potatoes and greens in a creamy broth. My sister, who has more will-power, was eating her healthier bowl of Pasta E Fagioli, eyeballing my soup and said that I should "healthify it" and post it for Souper Sundays. A great idea!  My Mom found a clipping from the paper with a recipe for the company's version so I copied it down and made some healthier changes (in red below), and ended up with a hearty, yummy soup. So Linda, this Healthier "Zuppa Toscana" is for you. Hopefully your kitchen remodel will be finished soon, otherwise I am sure Mom will make it for you. 

Healthier "Zuppa Toscana"
Adapted from the Olive Garden

3/4 lb spicy Italian link sausage  (about 3 links)  (used spicy organic chicken sausage)
1 slice bacon, diced  (used organic turkey bacon)
3/4 cup diced onion
1 1/4 tsp minced garlic  (used about 2 Tbsp)
2 medium potatoes, peeled  (used 3 large potatoes)
2 Tbsp chicken broth  (see below)
4 cups water  (used 5 cups low-sodium chicken broth)
2 cups cavolo greens or kale  (used 3 cups kale)
1/3 cup whipping cream  (used 2 Tbsp soy creamer)
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Put sausages on a baking sheet and bake for 25 minutes or until juices run clear when pricked with a fork. Let cool, cut in half lengthwise and then at an angle into 1/2 inch slices. (About 1 1/2 cups yield). Set aside. 

In a 4 quart pot over medium heat, saute bacon until limp. Add the onion and continue cooking until the onions are translucent. Add garlic and cook 1 minute more.

Cut the potatoes in half lengthwise and slice into 1/4-inch slices. Add the potatoes to the onions along with the chicken broth and water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 15 minutes. (Remove 2 ladles of potatoes from soup and place in blender. food processor or bowl with immersion blender and puree until smooth. Add back to soup. If soup is not thick enough for your liking, puree more potatoes until it is the consistency you want). 

Cut the cavolo greens or kale in half and remove any tough stems. Slice into very thin strips. Add greens and sausage to the soup ans simmer 5 minutes more. Stir in cream and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Notes/Results: Hearty, delicious and just as good, if not better than the original. The pureed potatoes give the soup a great texture and a couple of tablespoons of the soy creamer, although not completely necessary, does give it a certain silkiness. I increased the amount of potatoes in order to have enough to blend to thicken the base and still have plenty of chunks and cut both the sausage and potatoes in smaller pieces than the recipe stated, (more per bite that way!). The package of chicken sausage I bought had 4 links and was slightly over 3/4 pound. I also upped the amount of garlic and used low sodium chicken stock for the base instead of water for the extra flavor. Even better reheated the next day, this filling soup is a definite keeper.

Time to check out who is in the Souper Sunday Kitchen today and find out what delicious creations they have come up with.

First up is Kristen from Sogkonnite Living who mustered her inner warrior to make Rachel Ray's Samurai Soup with her kids. A little nervous about cooking with her children especially making the wontons, Kirsten was happy about how easy the soup was to make and how much fun her children had. The result was a delicious soup that made enough for everyone for dinner and still gave her a nice lunch the next day. 

One of two new faces at Souper Sunday is Amy from Calm In The Kitchen, hailing from Kansas. The weather there has been crazy lately, alternating from warm to cold and Amy knows that nothing is better on a cold day than a nice hot bowl of soup. Her gorgeous Creamy Roasted Mushroom and Garlic Soup is a perfect way to warm up. Roasting the garlic and mushrooms, made this soup a flavorful, creamy, well-balanced dish that Amy calls "simple and satisfying".

I always love to meet fellow soup fans so I was excited to hear from Heather at Girlichef from Indiana, our other new face this week. Heather loves soup so much, she posted two this week. The first is a classic Tortilla Soup, adapted from the master of Mexican cooking, Rick Bayless; simple, delicious and flavorful.  

Heather's second soup is the perfect "medicine" for colds and flu, her Restorative Broth, with plenty of ginger and garlic, plus a plethora or veggies and herbs (see the photo below). A big mug of this flavorful broth will cure whatever ails you.

Having a "Sandwich Day" featuring both grilled cheese and turkey cheese Hawaiian Panini, made Kim at Ordinary Recipes Made Gourmet realize that you can't have a sandwich without some tasty soup to dunk it into. She whipped up a batch of her favorite sandwich dip; classic Homemade Tomato Soup. Give Kim a good sandwich, a bowl of this soup and an old movie and she is in Heaven. Congrats to Kim for blogging everyday for the month of February and winning another NaBloPoMo badge! I am impressed with her dedication!

Ulrike from Küchenlatein is getting a few hints of spring in the air and made a Spiced Citrus Bean Soup to capture the feeling. This soup contains a colorful variety of Italian "pulses", (red, white and green beans, lentils, chickpeas, green and yellow split peas & broad beans), plus spices and orange juice, and is topped with a scattering of coriander and parsley. It is the perfect soup to fill up on, and get ready to welcome Spring.  

Leftover homemade pasta and a need for some soothing soup this weekend, prompted Natashya from Living in the Kitchen with Puppies to create this Green Curry Noodle Soup with Spicy Shrimp. Full of crisp veggies, tender noodles, green curry paste, and coconut milk and topped with some spicy shrimp, it is a feast for the senses. Natashya says it is a good, fast soup and very tasty!

Looks like some fantastic soups to kick off March with! Welcome to our new faces this week and thanks to everyone for sharing their soups. Check out their blogs for the recipes, more pictures and the details on their dishes. If you want to share your soup or soup-like creation, just click on the Souper Sunday logo on the side bar and you'll find all the details.

Have a great week!


  1. Yay soup!
    I must be the only person who has never been to an Olive Garden. Great that you could get your hands on the recipe and make your special "Deb's Healthy Version!"
    I see a new career path for you...!
    Love the green square bowl, is that new?

  2. I am sooooo loving this! All these soups in one place...I'm in heaven. Thanks for Souper Sundays-can't wait to make more soup :)

  3. Natashya--you haven't missed all that much really--except the soup. ;-) The green bowl is one of my special discounts to get some variety in my soup pictures!

    Heather--so happy to have you! Can't wait to see more of your soups!

  4. Another round of comforting soups! Yours looks really good Deb, you did a wonderful job of recreating it. I can only remember going to Olive Garden once before and I wasn't impressed.

  5. All your soups look so good! I was craving a big bowl of warm soup this weekend, but I kept getting called into work, bummer. I loved the sounds of Heather's broth- I might have to make that tomorrow when we are all snowed in. Kristin

  6. all of these sound so comforting!! I also like your healthy soup!

  7. All these soups are great and very conforting in an other ugly rainy day !

  8. Wow! you're a great aunt to go to Olive Garden, lol. It's good to know the soup is good. I have an aunt who loves the place, so maybe I won't have to be lead in kicking and screaming. Are you going to switch to Super Salads for the warm weather?

  9. The zuppa looks great! All of these soups sound delicious.

  10. I love all of the soup recipes! I want to make and eat them all!

  11. A great round up - but what is the Olive Garden? Sorry I couldn't make it this week - see you next week.

  12. Suzie--Olive Graden is an American Chain Restaurant that serves Italian food. We don't have them here in Hawaii but they are all over the mainland.


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