Zuppa Toscana is a delightful Italian soup with a rustic feel and an exceptional combination of flavors and textures. Sausage, potatoes and kale make up the body of the soup with onions, garlic, bacon, and Parmesan cheese permeating the chicken broth with a dash of heavy cream creating body and depth. When you make this at home, it is homey rather than heavy. This is a perfect way to enjoy comfort on a cold winter day.
12 oz fresh sausage, casings removed
4 strips of bacon, chopped finely
3 quarts chicken broth (homemade is best)
2 large onions, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups potatoes, baby red, sliced into 1/4 inch circles
4 cups kale, coarsely chopped
1/4 – 1/3 cup heavy cream
1/4 – 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated
In a large pot or dutch oven, heat 1/2 Tablespoon of oil on medium-high heat. Add the sausage and cook, until meat is no longer pink. Use a wooden spoon to break apart large chunks. You can use any kind of fresh sausage that you like. This is an Italian recipe, so Italian sausage is the typical choice, but I actually prefer using Polish sausage that I buy from a Polish store where they make all their meats. Maybe it’s the Belarussian in me – Polish is a very similar flavor profile. Set the sausage aside. If the sausage is very greasy, drain on a paper towel; mine was pretty lean, so I didn’t need to do that. In the same pot, cook the bacon over medium heat, until golden and crispy. Set aside and drain on a paper towel. Pour off most of the bacon grease, leaving 2 Tablespoons. Cook the onions with 1/4 of a teaspoon of salt and pepper on medium heat, covered, until onions are softened and beginning to brown. Add the garlic and cook just until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Pour in the chicken broth, bring to a boil, reduce the temperature to a simmer and add the potatoes. I like to use baby red potatoes, and just slice them into circles with the skin on. It adds a pretty red color to the soup and a rustic feel to the dish. You can use regular sized red potatoes, just cut them into 1/4 inch in thickness and about 1 inch in length. Cook until the potatoes are tender. Meanwhile, coarsely chop the kale.You will need to remove the center part, discard it and coarsely chop the leaves. Add to the soup and cook for about 5-10 min, just until the kale is slightly wilted, but is still bright green.
Turn off the heat, add the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese and sausage. Season with salt and pepper. Garnish with bacon and more Parmesan cheese.