In my home town in Alabama, we have the crappiest Olive Garden known to mankind!! I don't think I have ever eaten there and then afterward said to myself "That was delicious and the service was excellent! I am glad I did this!" NEVER!!! I think I went 2 or 3 times before completely boycotting it altogether. I have been to other chains in other cities that I was impressed with. Having worked at an authentic Italian restaurant for several years during college, I am not a huge fan of their food but it was so close to our house in Texas, that it was super easy sometimes.
While I was pregnant, I was ADDICTED to their Zuppa Toscana! Notice the all caps in the word ADDICTED!! I had it for lunch several days a week with their breadsticks. I started to realize I had a problem and took a break for a while. I eventually relapsed and scoured the internet looking a copy recipe. After several failed attempts, I finally gave up. I eventually found one more that I thought I would try and it finally worked. It tasted so good. I love soups in the Fall and love to share those recipes because they freeze well and you can really feed a crowd or have alot of leftovers. I always love that! The next cold snap, you REALLY need to make this!
***My changes to the recipe are noted in italics.
- 1 pound bulk mild Italian sausage **I used link Italian sausage and pulled off the casings.
- 1 1/4 teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes
- 4 slices bacon, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic
- 5 (13.75 ounce) cans chicken broth
- 6 potatos, thinly sliced
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/4 bunch fresh spinach, tough stems removed **I used Kale because it held up better in the soup and didn't wilt right away. I highly recommend kale instead of spinach.
- Cook the Italian sausage and red pepper flakes in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink, 10 to 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.
- Cook the bacon in the same Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp, about 10 minutes. Drain, leaving a few tablespoons of drippings with the bacon in the bottom of the Dutch oven. Stir in the onions and garlic; cook until onions are soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Pour the chicken broth into the Dutch oven with the bacon and onion mixture; bring to a boil over high heat. Add the potatoes, and boil until fork tender, about 20 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the heavy cream and the cooked sausage; heat through. Mix the spinach into the soup just before serving.