It’s fall time and the weather is perfect for coming in to the house to a comforting bowl of hot soup.
The first soup, a copycat version of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana based on some net surfing, is a hearty sausage and potato soup with kale … cause greens are colourful and good for you. I reduced the amount of sausage called for in most recipes. You just don’t need that much to get loads of flavour. Instead, I used the extra sausage as a pizza topping. And the ham stock I used as a base came from cooking up a smoked picnic shoulder ham and straining out the pickling spices used to flavour the cooking liquid. I’m frugal that way. 🙂
Zuppa Toscana or Kale, Potato and Italian Sausage Soup – serves 4-6
2/3 – 1 pound Italian sausage (4-6 sausages, hot or mild)
1 bunch kale, stemmed, rinsed and cut into strips
4 cups ham stock (chicken, vegetable stock or water)
1 onion, diced finely
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely minced
3-4 medium sized potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes
pinch of hot pepper flakes, if using mild sausage and wanting a bit of heat
~1 cup water
1 cup whipping cream (or whole/homogenized or 2% milk)
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp dried thyme
I should have used a bigger bowl for that sausage meat. 🙂
Prepare the kale leaves by ripping them off the stems (freeze stems for future batches of vegetable stock) and cut into 1/2″ strips. Rinse well in 3 changes of fresh water draining after each one. Reserve.
Remove the casing from the sausages, break up the meat and fry in a non-stick saute pan, large enough to make the soup in, until the meat is no longer pink. Break up the larger chunks of sausages as much as possible while frying. You don’t need to add any additional fat as the sausages will render down, releasing all the fat you need for browning. Remove the sausage meat to a medium sized bowl using a slotted spoon. Drain the fat that came out of the sausages and discard. (see picture below … that’s a LOT of extra fat that you don’t need)
Using just the fat remaining in the pan, saute the onions and garlic until the onions are soft and translucent and just beginning to get browned.
Add the stock, cooked sausage meat, diced potatoes and about 1/2 tsp salt and 1/4 tsp ground black pepper. (You may add the dried herbs at this point as well, if using.) Cover and bring the soup to a simmer. You can add another cup or so of water to make sure that your potatoes are covered. Cook for about 10-12 minutes until the potatoes are just tender.
Add the kale, cover, and cook for another 2-3 minutes until the kale is wilted.
Stir in the whipping cream and bring to a low simmer.
Taste again for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if desired.
Serve piping hot with toasted garlic bread.
I love clam chowder and cream of mushroom soup. This soup is a combination of the two. I tried to make it a bit healthier than the recipe that inspired it as 4 CUPS of half and half seemed a tad excessive.
And here’s the result … a Clam and Mushroom Chowder.
Clam and Mushroom Chowder – makes 8-9 cups of soup
6 strips of bacon (optional)
2 tsp bacon fat, or 1 tsp each olive oil and butter
1 pound white mushrooms, roughly chopped
2-3 ribs (1 cup) celery, finely diced (reserve celery tops, to garnish soup)
1/2 onion, finely diced
4 cups seafood stock (vegetable or chicken stock enriched with clam juice is also suitable)
1 pound waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into bite sized pieces
salt and pepper to taste (start with 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp ground pepper, white if preferred)
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1 cup whipping cream or half and half
1/4 cup flour
4 cups/1 pound shelled frozen clams
water as needed
Garnish with diced bacon or julienned strips of celery leaves
If you wish, cook up 6 strips of bacon until crispy in a large saute pan over medium high heat. Remove the bacon strips to a plate lined with paper towels and allow to cool. Chop up roughly.
Reserve 2 tsp of the bacon fat in the saute pan to fry the vegetables for the soup, or use olive oil and butter.
Add onions to the bacon fat and saute until translucent. Add minced garlic and saute for a minute or two until it starts getting some colour. Add mushrooms and celery. Saute for another 5 minutes or until most of the liquid has evaporated from the mushrooms and they’re starting to get golden brown.
Add diced potatoes, stock, salt, pepper and dried thyme. If needed, add water until the vegetables are covered by about 1/2 an inch. Bring to the boil and then cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender when pierced by a fork.
Put the whipping cream and the flour in a jar. Shake to dissolve the flour. Add to the saute pan, stir through and cook until soup mixture has thickened a bit.
Add the frozen clams. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for 5-10 minutes until clams heat through and the flavors blend.
Taste and add additional salt as needed.
Serve into individual bowls and garnish with chopped bacon or julienned celery leaves.
And, while I’m on a roll, a completely different, RED soup. This Stuffed Pepper Soup has all the ingredients of a stuffed pepper but in soup form.
Stuffed Pepper Soup – makes ~6 servings
1 lb lean ground beef
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 small (1 cup) yellow onion finely diced
3/4 cup chopped red bell pepper (a little over 1/2 of a medium)
3/4 cup chopped green bell pepper
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 (14.5 oz) cans petite diced tomatoes
1 (15 oz) can tomato sauce
1 (14.5) can beef broth
2 1/2 tbsp chopped fresh parsley, plus more for garnish (or 1 tbsp dried parsley)
1/2 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried oregano
2/3 – 1 cup uncooked long grain white or brown rice
Cheddar or mozzarella cheese, for serving (optional)
In a large pot heat 1 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat. Once hot add the beef to the pot and season with salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring occasionally while breaking up beef, until browned. Drain beef and pour onto a plate lined with paper towels, set aside.
Heat remaining 1 tbsp olive oil in pot then add onions, red bell pepper, green bell pepper and saute 3 minutes, then add garlic and saute 30 seconds longer. Pour in diced tomatoes, tomato sauce, beef broth and add parsley, basil, oregano and cooked beef, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring just to a light boil, then reduce heat to low, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, 30 minutes.
While soup simmers, prepare rice according to directions listed on package, then once soup is done simmering stir in desired amount of cooked rice into soup*.
Serve warm topped with optional cheese and garnish with fresh parsley.
*For a thinner soup don’t add all of the rice and for a thicker heartier soup add it all. Also, if you plan on having it for leftovers the next day then don’t add the rice to the pot of soup, just add it to each individual bowl, then reserve the rice in a separate container in refrigerator to add to the soup the next day.
NOTE: I used red and yellow peppers cause that’s what I had, and a beef bouillon cube instead of the broth. I added 2/3 cups of uncooked rice with the peppers and simmered it all together for 30 minutes.