I have no idea why this soup is called zuppa toscana. I can't seem to find anything particularly Tuscan about it, and after doing a bit of research, I can't seem to find any traditional version of this recipe that would mark it as having any particular culinary background.
That doesn't make it any less delicious...
I first fell in love with this soup, like so many people, at The Olive Garden. I was determined to make my own version and found that not only is this soup incredibly easy to make, it is way more delicious than what you get at the restaurant. I'd have to assume more healthy too, although I don't have any research to back that up. It just feels like homemade soup has to be more wholesome than what is being served at a chain restaurant. I've read several recipes that use bacon as well as sausage and add heavy cream (and lots of it) instead of milk. You can do either as you wish, although I don't think the soup needs either addition to be hearty enough for a meal.
Olive Oil, no need for extra virgin
1 large onion, finely shopped
1 lb (approx) Italian sausage, I like to use one sweet and one hot
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
red pepper flakes, to taste
4 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
1 bay leaf
2 medium potatoes, thinly sliced
1/2 cup milk
1 bunch of kale*, shredded
grated cheese, for garnish
salt/pepper to taste
*You can use regular kale, but I like lacinato kale (otherwise known as Tuscan kale or cavolo nero)
Start by heating a little oil (about a tbslp) and adding in your chopped onions to get them sweating. Today, I had an extra carrot and a rib of celery laying around so I added them as well, but I usually stick with just onion. Add your sausage (if you bought links, remove the casings) and break the sausage into smaller bits with your spoon in the pan with the onions. Once the sausage is cooked through, add the garlic and red pepper flakes, then cook for just a minute before adding the chicken stock, water and bay leaf.
Cooking the vegetables and sausage.
With stock and potatoes added.
Bring to a boil and let simmer for 30 minutes. While the soup is simmering, peel and slice your potatoes. Add them to the pot and let the soup cook until the potatoes are tender.
Now is the time to taste/adjust your seasonings. Add the milk and I like to add a little grated romano or parmesan (if you have an old parmesan rind that you can put in with the stock for the simmer, even better).
I don't like to cook my kale very much so I place the raw shredded kale into bowls, ladle soup over the top and serve. This just takes the rawness out of the kale, but still leaves a lot of texture, which I like against the soft potatoes. If you like your kale a little softer, add it to the pot, mix into the soup and let everything simmer together until the kale is to your liking.