Zuppa Toscana

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Wintertime is soup time! Last night I made zuppa toscana, which is apparently a soup made famous by Olive Garden (??) I personally had never heard of it before yesterday when I was browsing the food blog Budget Bytes (perfect for poor students like myself). I thought it looked delicious and easy to make, and I already had most of the ingredients on hand. The version I’ve made is much lighter than the restaurant version.

I ended up making a lot of modifications, mostly to the meat and the seasonings. Because the original recipe calls for Italian Sausage, there weren’t any additional seasonings included in the recipe. I did not have sausage and didn’t want to buy it, so I used some farmer’s market ground beef we had in the freezer. Because the beef was just plain, I looked up typical spices used in Italian Sausage and just added those to my browning meat separately. More details below.

Before we get to the recipe though, I want to point out that the real star of this soup is this beautiful, handmade ceramic bowl that I received as a Christmas gift (and it was part of a larger set!) from Boyfriend’s sister! A wonderful present. Also, since we got engaged in December, I guess Boyfriend is now Fiance. 2015 was a big year.

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Recipe

  • ½ lb. Italian Sausage (hot or mild)–Like I stated before, I used ground beef and added about 1/2 tsp to 1 tsp of the following spices: oregano, basil, garlic salt, cayenne pepper (1/8 tsp), thyme.
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 (15 oz.) can Great Northern beans–I used cannellini beans since I already had some in the pantry
  • ½ tsp smoked paprika
  • 3 cups chicken broth–I used “better than bouillon” chicken base, 1 tsp for every 1 cup of water.
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cups half and half–I cut this down to just 1 cup
  • 3 medium red potatoes (1.5-1.75 lbs.)
  • 1 bunch (8 oz.) kale
  • pinch red pepper flakes (optional)
  • freshly cracked black pepper (optional)

My process (for nice step-by-step pictures, go to Budget Bytes’ original recipe)

  1. Saute the ground beef in a large pot. I added about 1-2 tbsp of olive oil to this. Add oregano, basil, thyme, a little bit of garlic salt, a little bit of cayenne pepper.
  2. Add onion and garlic. Wait for onion to soften, stirring occasionally.
  3. Drain, rinse beans and add to the pot.
  4. Add chicken broth, paprika, 1 cup water. Put the lid on and simmer for a bit.
    1. In the original recipe, she added half-and-half here. I waited until the end to add this because in a review I read some people had issues with the dairy curdling while on heat.
  5. Add potatoes (quartered, sliced thin). Simmer for 10-15 minutes, until potato softens. Test to make sure you don’t have any raw potatoes.
  6. Add kale. It’ll take up a lot of space in the pot but will very quickly wilt into the soup.
  7. Simmer for another 5-10 minutes, or longer, depending on how things taste when you test it.
  8. Add half-and-half! You can add up to 2 cups. I added only 1 cup, tasted it, and it was plenty creamy for me.

Boyfriend/Fiance was a big fan, probably because I NEVER make meat dishes and this was like the one time this year where he had meat in a meal that he didn’t make himself… aside from that, it’s filling, creamy, savory, and full of yummy vegetables like kale, potato, onion, and beans!

We put it in the fridge and had it for leftovers the next day; still great.

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Butternut Squash Soup

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I’ve been making a lot of soup lately due to 1) the colder weather and 2) my desire to use my previously talked about new immersion blender as often as possible. It’s magical.

This is a very easy butternut squash soup that is filling and tasty and very flexible. I kept it very simple in terms of spices and the cream content, but you can add a ton of different things to a basic squash soup–I saw many variants of this online and in the reviews for the recipe.

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Depending on how smooth or chunky you like your soup to be, you can either blend it for a long time or just in short bursts. I didn’t leave any chunks in mine but it wasn’t liquid-smooth either.

Recipe (from here)
1 Butternut squash, about 2 pounds
2 tablespoons oil (I used grapeseed)
1 cup chopped onion
1 1/2 teaspoons chopped garlic
1/2 cup thinly sliced carrot
1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon finely minced jalapeno pepper (I actually didn’t include this)
2 cups chicken stock (if you’re vegetarian you could switch to vegetable stock)
1/4 cup heavy cream

Cut the squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Peel the squash and cut into 1 inch pieces. In a large pot, heat oil over medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring often, until they begin to brown, about 5 minutes.

Add the carrot, cumin, salt, and pepper. Cook for 1 minute, and then add squash, jalapeno pepper, and chicken stock. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15- 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender. Remove from the heat and puree the soup using an immersion blender, or transfer to a blender or food processor. Return to the heat, add the cream and adjust the seasonings.

Seen in the upper left quarter of this photo is an uber fancy cheese plate that my friends gave me for my birthday! To the right is an apple and brussel sprouts dish that turned out badly and that I won't be writing about
Seen in the upper left quarter of this photo is an uber fancy cheese plate that my friends gave me for my birthday! To the right is an apple and brussel sprouts dish that turned out badly and that I won’t be writing about