The rustic charm is simply inescapable. And the flavors are something to behold. You need to be careful during the first stage of cooking when you render fat from the bacon and the sausage. That really forms the flavor base for the soup.
It has to be belly bacon. Fatty unsweetened bacon. If you can get pancetta (Italian cured but unsmoked pork), the better. As for the sausage, Italian sausage is, of course, the default but there are so many kinds that it’s hard to specify exactly what is best for making zuppa Toscana. Personally, I like spicy prefer sausage.
Once there is enough rendered fat in the pot, onion and garlic are stirred in. How much garlic you need depends on the sausage you’re using as some sausages are more garlicky than others.
At this point, the pot is covered, the heat is lowered, and the onion pieces are left to sweat in the heat. Once the onion has reached that stage, the potatoes are added.
Broth is poured in, the pot is covered once more and everything simmers until the potatoes are soft. During this time, the potatoes will start to soak up the flavors of the sausages, bacon, onion and garlic. So, don’t hurry up the process by allowing the contents of the pot to boil vigorously. Slow cooking is essential.
Once the potatoes are done, the kale is added. Make sure that you trim the kale before adding to your soup. Strip the leaves off the middle rib before roughly chopping. The rib is fibrous and you don’t want to add that to your soup.
The last ingredient to go in is the cream. After stirring it in, allow the soup to reach simmering point to make sure that the cream reaches the same temperature as the rest of the ingredients. Do not, however, cover and allow the soup to boil to prevent the cream from curdling.
- Cut the bacon into half-inch wide strips.
- Peel off the sausage skin and discard. Cut the sausage meat into rings.
- Spread the bacon on the bottom of a pan and turn the heat to medium-low. Cook, stirring a few times, until fat has been rendered.
- Add the sausage rings and continue cooking until fat from the sausage has been rendered as well.
- Add the chopped onion and minced garlic. Stir. Cover the pan, turn down the heat to low and cook until the onion bits start to soften.
- Rinse and scrub the potato, cut into quarters then slice thinly.
- Add the potato slices to the pan and stir until every piece is coated with oil.
- Pour in the broth. If your broth is unseasoned or underseasoned, add a bit of salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer until the potatoes are soft.
- Strip the kale leaves from the stalks, discard the stalks and roughly chop the leaves.
- Stir the kale leaves into the soup and cook for a few minutes or just until withered.
- Stir in the cream.
- Allow to reach simmering point before turning off the heat.
- Taste your zuppa Toscana one last time, and adjust the seasonings, if needed, before serving.