Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana…Reworked

How much do I LOVE Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana? Well, let’s just say that after going there repeatedly just to get soup, I finally got disgusted with myself and decided to figure out the recipe and start making it myself. Whether or not the following recipe is exactly theirs, I honestly haven’t a clue, but I can tell you that it tastes every bit as good and maybe…just maybe, even better. 😉 When the weather gets cold, I make up a huge vat of this and eat on it for days. We had this for dinner last night with some crusty french bread and a green salad. Oh, so delicious and healthy…and EASY and FAST!

Zuppa Toscana Serves 8

1 pound turkey hot Italian sausage (I use one package Jennie-O’s Hot Italian links or slightly more than one pound.)
3 slices bacon, cut into small pieces
2 large russet baking potatoes, peeled and cut into small cubes (no smaller than 1/2″)
1 large onion, diced
2 red jalapenos, cored and seeded then finely diced
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 can cannellini beans, drained
1 qt. carton of organic chicken broth (I used Pacific Natural Organic Chicken Broth)
3 cups water
1/2 to 2/3 cup half-n-half
1 large bunch fresh winter greens: Beet greens, kale, chard, mustard greens, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces

In a large pot, place the bacon and the sausage and cook over a medium high flame until the meats begins to brown, using a spatula or large spoon to break up the meats into smallish chunks. If you want less fat, cook the bacon first, drain off the fat and then add in the turkey sausage and continue till all the meat is browned. Add in the onion, garlic and minced jalapenos. Stir and continue cooking for a few minutes until the veggies start releasing some of their aromas. Add in the diced potatoes, cannellini beans, chicken broth and the water and simmer for approximately 20 to 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. A few minutes before serving, pour in the half-n-half and cook for a few minutes so the flavors can blend. Placing a good amount of fresh winter greens into the bottom of a bowl, ladle the hot soup over the top and serve immediately. A loaf of fresh crusty french bread is great for sopping up the juices. Add in a green salad and you have a complete healthy meal. Bon appetit!

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