My husband and I love soups in the winter and fall. There is nothing like coming home on a chilly day and smell the aroma of soup and bread coming from the kitchen. I created my own version of Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, my husband's favorite. Since we eat healthy, I make it a little lighter in calories but without sacrificing flavor. I do it in the crockpot so all the flavors can blend in.
- 1 lb of turkey Italian sausage
- 1 1/2 cups of half and half
- 2 cups of chicken broth
- 1 bay leaf
- fresh thyme
- 2-3 russet potatoes cut in big chunks
- 1/2 onion, chopped
- 1 carrot chopped
- 1 stalk of celery, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic
- 1/4 parmesan cheese, shredded
- 1 cup water
- salt and pepper to your taste
- Red pepper flakes to your taste
- Spinach or Kale to your taste, we like to see quite a bit of it!
First, cook the sausage with the garlic, onions, carrots and celery, until no longer pink. Make sure that the pan is REALLY hot before you cook the sausage. This produces "caramelization" of the meat and gives it more flavor. You do not have to cook all the way through. Add the rest on ingredients, except the half and half and spinach. For the thyme, I just throw a little "bouquet" in the broth and as it cooks it falls apart. You then remove the stalks from the soup. Let it cook on high for 4 hours. 30 minutes before serving, add the half and half and spinach and let cook for another 30 minutes. Serve with crusty baguette. You can put some shredded cheese on top. If you happen to have a leftover cheese rind, toss it in the soup while cooking.