Saturday, October 30, 2010

Olive garden without the tacky paint job or fake grapes.

I know, you're about to fall over right? 3 Posts in as many days.  What is the world coming to?  :)

I couldn't pass up this linky party at Southern In My Heart because it involves my favorite way to cook.  Mainly because you can't mess it up.  Unless you're my friend Ashley, and then, well, all bets are off.  

Yes, Ashley does read this, but she'll laugh :) and nod in agreement (and then probably pay me back at work on Monday).  So...this is for YOU Ash.   Smooches. I really do love ya babe.

I make a mean knock-off of the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.  And while i'm bragging, i will go a little further. Mine's better. I use less potatoes, more kale, more meat, and i think more cream, because my version is thicker than the restaurant's.  And instead of white onions, i use leeks. YUMMY.

We start here:

This is snapshot of everything that gets thrown in.  DISCLAIMER - While EACH of the above ingredients is used in this recipe - i did NOT use the entire lot. I was only feeding myself and Vance - they just made a prettier picture with it all spread out.  Moving along...

Here is what i actually used:

  • 3 tablespoons EVOO 
  • An entire bunch of chopped Kale (to give you an idea - 2 bunches are shown here)
  • Entire box Chicken Broth shown above - regular - NOT low sodium - that's for wimps.
  • 1/2 carton of Heavy Whipping Cream
  • 1/2 lb. Italian Sausage
  • 1 SUPER large Russet Baking Potatoes sliced in thin slices
  • 1 large leek - sliced or chopped. It's soup - it doesn't matter.
  • BACON BACON BACON (As much as your little heart can handle)
Heat up olive oil over med heat.
Scissor up sausage into your pot (I used 2 1/2 of those links pictured above) and brown in the olive oil.  When i use cased sausage for recipes like this i use scissors to cut it up into the pot. I know, weird. But it's easier.
Add bacon when sausage is about cooked through and brown that.  (I used only 3 slices this go around)

This is the point you'll be at in your pot - it should look like this, Ashley.

Can you smell it - this is where scratch and sniff monitors would rock, people.  Someone should get on that.

OK.  Onward.  Now, throw in that gorgeous leek.....

Move it around in there.  Make it feel at home with the bacon.  Now, it's really starting smell great in the kitchen.  This is about where you can tell you know how to work your stove.  and about the point where the man-child starts wondering into the kitchen asking what you're cooking. :0)

After you saute it for a bit, (Ash, this means a minute  - you don't want the leek to get to soft or cooked looking. you want some crisp left in it at this point) throw in those potato slices. This was one large Russet Gold.  You want to use a Russet - they don't go to mush in the pot. NO WHITE OR RED POTATOES FOR THIS SOUP.

Pour box of stock in AND NOW TURN DOWN HEAT TO LEVEL 2 OR LOW.
Throw chopped kale on top.
Stir it around gently so things are mixed up.
While you're stirring, the stove top should be cooling down.  Give it about 5 minutes or 10 minutes depending on your stove for it come down to low heat.

Bored?  Have a glass of wine. Tell yourself how awesome you are.  Make your christmas list.  The one your hubby's going to buy for you.

Now come back to the pot and pour in your cream.   All of this you-time was so that your cream didn't curdle when you poured it into hot liquid.  See - you are an ace multi-tasker! 

Once your cream is warmed gently thru - TURN OFF THE STOVE.  
I promise the soup will stay warm enough AND YOU DON'T WANT CURDLED CREAM.

At this point, we took a walk around the neighborhood which took about 30 minutes. By the time we got back, the potatoes were cooked to perfection.  For us, that means they weren't mushy, they were firm but cooked and were still in slices, not falling apart.  If you want mushier potatoes, you may want to leave the pot on low - very low - for a little bit longer.  

(if you've used the ingredients like i laid them out - there probably is no need for salt or pepper.  The kale is peppery to begin with, and the chicken stock was loaded with salt - AND i don't know if you noticed, but we didn't use any water - just stock and cream - so lots of flavor here)

This is our favorite winter soup.  Hope you enjoy it as much as we do!

Ashley, go cook.  now. 


  1. First off, I LOVE the way you walk us through the recipe. I'm an "Ashley" and need the step by step instructions. Plus, you made me giggle.

    I would/will definitely try this soup this winter. I love kale and keep it on hand for green smoothies so this one is calling our name.

    This Sister Land Soup Party is going to stock my recipe file for sure.

  2. I've got to try this one! Different than our typical soups. But, so love the ingredients. I'll be back to write it down. Joining you at Vanessa's.

  3. This is actually my husband's favorite soup of all time. Thank you for the recipe, and I'm sure yours is better. I did Mimi's cafe corn chowder once, and loved mine, but still not as well as I do theirs, but I'm going to try this for hubby, he'll be so surprised

  4. That is my fav soup at olive garden! Thanks for the recipe!

  5. As soon as I read the title of this post in the linky I KNEW it belonged to you! You crack me up girl! This sounds so beyond delicious and I'm a sucker for leeks and obviously you can tell by my recipe that we love us some sausage around here! Thanks so much for joining in the fun!

  6. YUM. and I loved the running commentary!!!!!

  7. Wow, mon ventre crie famine.
    Ca ouvre l'appétit, cette belle recette dans son vieille casserole de cuivre, le goût doit en être délicieux !
    J'ai faim !!!

  8. Wow, I am impressed...kale?...leeks?! This looks delish and I am looking forward to trying! Now if I can just find kale & leeks in the produce section...

  9. Oh my, Sheri, I am so going to make this soup! I don't know how I missed your post at Vanessa's soup party. Winter is definitely the best time for soup, although I love it anytime. I have eaten the OG soup, but if this is creamier, I will definitely like it much better.
    I was reading a previous post about your glass stove top. I clean mine with a razor blade to get off any burned on "residue." A little baking soda or Soft Scrub after that, and I'm done. I hate the look of the tops when people don't clean theirs regularly. (I have a messy friend) That tell-tale ring around the burner- ICK I am a fanatic and clean after every cooking job. The only drawback to this kind of cook top is that it has to be completely cooled down before it can be cleaned. Give me a gas stove, any ol' day. Unfortunately, we did not build this house!
    ~ Sue