Nothing is quite so warm and comforting as a big pot of soup in the fall and all through the winter. This one is a copycat version of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana; it's based on this recipe from a friend of a friend. Most of the ingredients, including bacon, Italian sausage, potatoes, onion, and garlic, are regularly available from the co-op. You can sometimes get chicken broth there, too, but I usually just buy a container of bouillon, which is fairly inexpensive and keeps well. Just reduce the amount of salt if you use bouillon or another high-sodium broth. As for the other ingredients, kale is less than $1 a bunch, and you can chop the leftovers and freeze them in 2-cup amounts for use the next time you make this or a similar soup. If you don't have half-and-half, you can also substitute 2% or whole milk plus an ounce or so of cream cheese.
Tuscan Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)
Prep time: 30 minutes
Total time: 1 to 1-1/4 hours
5-1/4 cups chicken broth (or three 14-oz. cans)
9 cups water
3-5 pieces bacon
1 lb. bulk Italian sausage
4 large potatoes, skin on and cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. olive oil
2/3 cup half-and-half (or 2/3 cup milk plus 1 oz. cream cheese)
1/2 to 1-1/2 tsp. salt (use the larger amount if using homemade broth or stock; otherwise 1/2 tsp. is plenty)
1 tsp. black pepper (or more, to taste)
1/4 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp. mustard powder
2 cups kale leaves, chopped
1. In a large stock pot combine water, broth, salt, and potatoes and set to a low boil.
2. In a separate pan fry bacon until slightly crispy and set aside; discard bacon grease.
3. In the same pan used to cook bacon, add Italian sausage, onion, and olive oil and simmer on low until sausage is browned and the consistency of hamburger.
4. Chop bacon into small shreds (use food processor to save time) and add to the cooked sausage, then add entire mixture to the soup pot.
5. Mix garlic, spices, and half-and-half (or milk/cream cheese) into the soup pot and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
6. Five minutes before serving mix in the chopped kale leaves.