A few weeks ago my coworkers and I paid a visit to our local Olive Garden for the soup, salad and breadstick lunch. It was a furiously cold day. I use the word furiously because it was one of those days where the wet winter wind (nice alliteration, huh?) causes the chill to snip at you through even the warmest of winter coats...leaving you...well, furious. I'm a Texan and Texans just don't do cold. We do hot, hotter and hottest. We do humid. We can handle hail. We don't blink at a tornado warning or even a flood. But cold, sleet and snow...that's just not our comfort zone. Anyway...I'm rambling.
This cold day warranted some hot soup. I ordered the pasta fagioli and my teammates ordered the toscana soup. They raved about how tasty it was to the point that I announced I needed to try it. One coworker informed me that she possessed the recipe and offered to share. Thus, the Honeyed Hashette version was born. This soup is creamy and full of bacony sausagey flavor (no, sausagey is not a word...yet). The red pepper flakes add a touch of heat which you could easily increase or decrease. It makes a TON of soup, so this would be perfect for a crowd or to serve in a cabin on a ski trip...you get the idea. Oh, and don't forget the cheese. It compliments the soup so well. Normally, Parmesan to me is a take or leave kind of thing but it really ties this soup together (that's the interior designer in me talking).
Zuppa Toscana (similar to Olive Garden's Toscana soup and adapted from recipe found on tuscanrecipes.com)
1 lb ground Italian sausage
1/2 pound ground beef
1 tsp crushed red peppers
1/2 large diced onion
3 slices bacon, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed or minced
10 cups chicken stock
1 cup whole milk (or cream if you live dangerously)
3 large Russet potatoes, diced with skins on
1-2 cups roughly chopped kale or spinach
grated parmesan for garnish
Brown Italian sausage, ground beef and crushed red pepper in a large pot.
Drain excess fat, place meats in a bowl and set aside.
In the same pan, sauté bacon, onion and garlic over medium heat until the onions are tender.
Add chicken stock to the pot and heat until it starts to boil.
Add the sliced potatoes and cook for about 20-30 minutes, until potatoes are fork tender.
Add the milk and just cook until thoroughly heated.
Stir in the sausage and the spinach or kale.
Let simmer an additional 15 minutes.
Garnish with parmesan and serve.