As much as I lament the changes in service philosophy at Olive Garden, I still love their Zuppa Toscana. Mr. Google was able to provide a recipe for a knock-off of this delightful soup, which I threw together yesterday.
Here's the basic recipe; notes on my changes come after.
1 pound Italian sausage, removed from casings
2 russet potatoes, cut in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/4" slices
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 cups kale, chopped
2 cups chicken broth
1 quart (4 cups) water
1 cup heavy cream
Brown sausage in soup pot, crumbling into small pieces as it browns. Add chicken broth and water to pot; stir.
Add onions, potatoes and garlic. Cook on medium heat until potatoes are tender. Taste; add salt and pepper to taste.
Turn heat to low. Add kale and cream, heat through and serve.
Serves 4 - 6
Use whatever spiciness level of sausage floats your boat, Rather than removing the sausage from the casings if you have links, you can slice it thinly (less work), but I find the sausage is better distributed through the soup if it's loose. You may want to put a bit of olive oil in your pot to keep the sausage from sticking (I did). If you leave the potato skins on (I did), it makes a more rustic soup (less work). You can use chopped, frozen kale (I did; less work) instead of fresh. Since it's going into a liquid, it doesn't make any difference in texture or taste to make the substitution. You also aren't left with the rest of a bunch of kale to incorporate into other recipes before it gets all slimy in the refrigerator (not that I'm speaking from experience or anything).
Finally, I ended up using four cups of chicken broth and two cups of water, rather than two and four. Stock-in-a-box, which is what I had, comes 4 cups to a box. I had no immediate use for the two cups that would have been left over had I followed the recipe proportions. In the end, I'm not sure it made much difference in the final flavor. Oh - and absolutely use real heavy cream, not milk. There isn't that much of it when divided amongst the portions, and you cannot duplicate the creamy richness using milk.
It does taste very much like the soup they serve at Olive Garden. My only regret is that I didn't have any crusty bread on hand to go along with it.
The rather quick preparation means this can be made even on a weeknight. It's going into the regular fall-winter-early spring soup rotation at my house.