zuppa toscana (gluten- and dairy-free)

Here's the concept: 
1 pot, 2 meats, 3-4 veggies, 5+ herbs/spices, oil, broth, & a kick.

Here's the Full (process): 

1 pot. This is a necessity for me. (I hate washing multiple pots and pans.) 
  • Make sure you pick a good size stock pot. 

2 meats: sausage and bacon. 
  • Start with 1 lb. of Italian sausage... 
  • And 4 thick strips of bacon, sliced. 
  • Throw it all in the pot, on heat 6/medium high. 
  • And keep prepping, stirring with each addition to keep the sausage crumbling and the bacon cooking on all sides. 

3-4 veggies: onion, potatoes, carrots and kale. 
  • Onion (and garlic). It's awesome if you can use real onion (and garlic), so chop up about 1/3 of a medium sweet onion (and a couple of cloves of garlic) and toss in while you're browning your meat. But it's really okay if you just add some onion (and/or garlic) powder later though, if you don't have an onion (garlic) on hand. 
  • Potatoes. Peel and dice four medium potatoes. Note: My mom prefers eight white potatoes, not peeled, and sliced thin. You choose. Additional note: When I've wanted this soup and haven't had potatoes on hand, I've been known to throw in a little mashed potato flakes after the liquid part. Just so you know you have options. The potatoes are important, but how they present themselves is entirely according to personal preference or present availability. 
  • Carrots. Grate 1-2 baby carrots. The little thin strips add just the right amount of sweetness and color. 
  • Kale. My favorite. Oh, sweet Kale! Kale is a newer companion of mine, but our relationship is just as deep as if we'd met a long, long time ago. A cross between spinach and broccoli almost, it's amazing and versatile! And Zuppa Toscana is a fabulous way to introduce this family to this fabulous friend. 
    • For this recipe, use at least as many stalks of kale as you can hold in one fist. Less is fine, but know, kale melts almost like spinach, so you can use more than you think. Just don't do what my  mom did and omit it. It wasn't on purpose, she just forgot to write it on her recipe. But Zuppa Toscana is just not the same without the kale.
    • To prep, cut out and discard the stem/stalk. 
    • Then slice the leaves two directions so that you end up with little squares. You can do strips, but even though the kale melts down a bit, it's nicer if you're not getting big long pieces, since you'll be eating this with a spoon.
    • Once the meat is browned/fully cooked, dump all the chopped kale into the pot and stir.
5+ Herbs & Oil.
  • Oil. Add a nice spill of extra virgin olive oil over the kale. 
  • 5+ Herbs. I can't tell you how much. I don't measure. And your tastes may be different than mine. So just remember, the name of this soup is Zuppa Toscana--soup of Tuscany--which would be Italian. So stick with herbs Italians love. Here's my list: 
    • Garlic and onion powder. If you didn't use fresh garlic and/or onion, don't forget to add these now. :) 
    • Italian seasoning. Or just a combination of basil, oregano and thyme.
    • Extra basil. Fresh, if you have it.
    • Parsley. Not too much.
    • Dill. This is my Mom's influence. I'm pretty sure she was influenced by my dad's Polish heritage on this one. But dill is hands-down the top herb of choice in my family. Even if I would consider it "optional" in this soup.
    • Celery seed. Another "optional." 
    • Pepper & Salt. Yes, I know these aren't actually herbs. And I know most people say it "salt & pepper." But this is where I add these. And I'm listing these additions in quantified order. I'm the kind of person who thinks we all consume too much sodium anyway, so I put my pepper first. I even put my pepper in the shaker with three holes and my salt in the one with two holes. Sorry, if that confuses people. But...it's better for you.
Broth & Kick. 
  • 6 cups chicken broth. I actually prefer using a ridiculous amount of Herbox chicken granules added when I add the herbs and just add 6 cups of water here, but I just realized Herbox uses "whey protein (from milk) and milk fat," so to stick with the gluten- and dairy-free promise, you'll want to use an approved broth in this step. I would recommend a low-sodium broth.
  • 3 cups soy milk. If you don't care about dairy-free, you could use 3 cups regular milk or 2 cups cream or 1 cup heavy whipping cream. But this soup has so much flavor that the soy is honestly not recognizable at all. And it makes it shareable with more people. 
  • Last but not least: Louisiana Hot Sauce. You could use any cayenne pepper sauce. Tabasco or Schlotszky's would be fine. I honestly really like the Burman's cayenne pepper sauce from Aldi. It's just the right finish! 
And here's the Short (recap): 
  • 1 stock pot. 
  • 2 meats: sausage & bacon. 
  • 3-4 veggies: onion (and garlic), potatoes, carrots, kale.
  • Oil. 
  • 5+ herbs: (Garlic/onion), Italian blend, extra basil, parsley, dill, celery seed, pepper, salt.
  • Chicken broth & soy milk. 
  • And the kick: cayenne pepper sauce.

Simmer. Or transfer to a crockpot on low for taking to your next Soup Celebration. 

And serve! Just as if we were at Olive Garden, I like to make Parmesan-Romano available for those who can enjoy it on the top. 

Bon appetit! And when people ask you for the recipe, you can send them here! :) 

With grace and peace,

michelle 

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