We moved to Lake Charles, Louisiana just over two years ago. We really like it here. Now, I admit, I NEVER thought I would live in Louisiana - but I thought the same about Mississippi, Kentucky, and West Virginia. I have to admit, Texas wasn't surprising (I grew up with an avid Red Raider's fan!) but we did live on the actual border of Texas/Arkansas... PHEW! That's lot's of local cuisine! During all these moves, one restaurant remains the same - and mostly predictable - Olive Garden! I know, it's a chain restaurant that serves semi-original dishes. Not really a classic or wondrous place - but I think they have done it well. I really enjoy eating there! I like the environment as well as the typically consistent quality to the food.
Until this move.
My favorite "Girls lunch out" is their soup and salad. (Although my family is tired of my rattling that eating iceberg lettuce is akin to eating crunchy water. Has NO nutritional value other than a carrier of yummy flavor for other foods (olives, onions, and lots of dressing!!). I suppose it is cheaper for a restaurant, but the salad would ROCK with some true greens added in there! BUT aside from all this, I love it. I love the Zuppa Toscana soup. It is hearty and filling without being heavy thick. It just makes me happy.
Until this move.
Lake Charles' Olive Garden chefs apparently feel that they have creative licensing when it comes to the production and serving of this classic soup. Never ONCE have they served it with kale included (a crucial part of the deliciousness!).
Ok. Ok. YES I am rambling and fussing. BUT... but.. as you can see in the picture there are greens and they describe the dish as "Spicy sausage, russet potatoes and cavolo greens in a creamy broth". So, after the time I asked for my soup to have some greens added, and they brought me a "bunch" of cold, uncooked greens on a plate... WELL - I decided there had to be an alternative!
AND THERE IS!
My mum-in-law found it. It claims to be an actual version of the restaurants recipe. I can not vouch for that, but I can say that it is the exact same (or better!!!) than the "real" versions I have had at various O.G. all over the US! I was very excited!
SO, below, I proudly offer my soup of choice. My delight - for day and night. For quick lunches (it freezes unbelievably well, and nukes even better!) or evenings where you just don't want to... (like tonight!!)
For your consideration and enjoyment.
Olive Garden's, Zuppa Toscan
Makes: 6-8 servings
- 1 lb ground Italian sausage (I usually use turkey...)
- 1½ tsp crushed red peppers (We don't use nearly this much, because even J our one year old loves this soup...)
- 1 large diced white onion
- 4 Tbsp bacon pieces
- 2 tsp garlic puree
- 10 cups water
- 5 cubes of chicken bouillon (I actually use a paste that I keep in the fridge - no MSG and tastes better! You can get it anywhere from Walmart to health food stores! It's more $$ but lasts a LONG time and better for you!)
- 1 cup heavy cream (remember - it's one cup in the HUGE pot of soup! So, not really bad...)
- 1 lb sliced Russet potatoes, or about 3 large potatoes
- ¼ of a bunch of kale (SO important!!!)
- Sauté Italian sausage and crushed red pepper in a large pot. Drain excess fat, refrigerate while you prepare other ingredients.
- In the same pan, sauté bacon, onions and garlic over low-medium heat for approximately 15 mins. or until the onions are soft.
- Add chicken bouillon and water to the pot and heat until it starts to boil.
- Add the sliced potatoes and cook until soft, about half an hour.
- Add the heavy cream and just cook until thoroughly heated.
- Stir in the sausage and the kale, let all heat through and serve. Delicious!