Zuppa Toscana

Delicious and easy..  a perfect dinner with a large dinner salad... and some breadsticks.. just like the famous restaurant!
The salad was a large crispy chicken salad.... oven fried chicken tenders... low fat and not over-the-top with carbs.... just perfect!
Now back to the soup...
The recipe calls for bulk Italian sausage... if you can't find bulk sausage.. no problem.. get the links... and cut open the casing... squeeze out the sausage into your skillet... breaking it into pieces as it cooks.
Every brand of Italian sausage varies.. it's what makes it wonderful... so... you know your own brand of hot Italian sausage.. if it's on the spicy size... you need to use your judgment about whether or not to add crushed red pepper to it... I added only a quick sprinkle and my lips were on fire... well.. maybe not quite that bad.. but I probably will add only a pinch next time.. my sausage is hot enough.
Another thing that varies significantly between brands of sausage.. is the fat content... mine is relatively lean... the cooking of the sausage renders virtually no fat.... so I need to add a drizzle of olive oil to cook the onions and garlic... if your sausage renders some fat.. remove all but about a tablespoon of it.. and cook the onions and garlic in what's left.
The famous restaurant uses kale.... I substituted fresh spinach... you can use either.
What I like about using spinach... well first of all.. I like spinach.. a lot.... but also.. baby spinach comes in bags... already cleaned and ready to go.. a big time saver... one thing though.. snap off the stems before putting it in the soup...
How much to use? .... it really is up to you... I used about 3/4 of a regular sized bag of baby spinach you can get in the produce section of the grocery store... (the size that lettuce comes in)... I would just "eyeball" it.. as Rachael Ray likes to say... add it by the handfuls and stir.. until you like the amount in your soup.
Which brings me to the next tip... make as little or as much as you need... the ingredient quantities are flexible... truly they are...
I used a large container of chicken broth (the 48 oz size) and I also had a bit left in the fridge from another small carton... about a cup.. I used it all...  I used approximately 64 oz.... so I added an extra quick "glug" of fat free half and half...
If I didn't have any leftover chicken broth in the fridge.. I would have just used the one carton.... so don't be afraid to alter the quantity... the only thing that you will need to adjust is the amount of fat free half and half to use... and you can approximate how much more or less to use...
If you're making a big batch .. say for company... add additional other ingredients.. again.. it's perfectly okay to approximate the amounts.
You can use chicken stock or broth.. stock has a heartier flavor... both work well.
I used Russet potatoes... I rinsed them really well.. and left the skins on.. this is a rustic soup.. and the skins add a lot of flavor and nutrients... I highly recommend you leave them on.
I used large Russet potatoes... I cut them in thick sliced about 1/2 inch thick.. then quartered the slices.
Prepare the soup up to adding the potatoes... make sure you only add the potatoes about 20 minutes before you plan to serve it... you want the potato pieces cooked, but not mushy...
I used fat free half and half...  the original recipes (and there are many of them) I found uses heavy cream... I think it's totally unnecessary to add that much fat to the soup.
I hope you try this super easy recipe for a truly wonderful soup.

Recipe:  Zuppa Toscana
All you need:
1 pound bulk hot Italian sausage
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 large carton (48 oz.) chicken broth or stock
Pinch of crushed red pepper (optional) *See TIPS
2 large Russet potatoes, cleaned and chopped *See TIPS
1 cup fat free half and half
3/4 of a bag of baby spinach, stems removed
Shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese (optional)
All you need to do:
In a large pot, cook the sausage over medium high heat... breaking it up into pieces as it cooks.  If it renders a lot of fat.. remove all but about a tablespoon.  If it doesn't render any or much fat.. add a drizzle of olive oil to the pot. 
Dump the onions on top of the sausage and stir... cook until the onions are almost soft ... about 4 minutes or so... add the garlic and stir well.. cook for another minute or two.
Add the chicken broth and bring to a low boil... add the potatoes and bring to a low boil again... reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are fork tender... about 15-20 minutes.
Taste the soup and if it has a light spicy flavor.. don't add the crushed red pepper.. if it can use a little zip.. add a pinch.
Add the fat free half and half and heat until warm again.. then add the spinach in handfuls... stirring gently.
Serve immediately with shredded Parmesan and Romano cheese at the table.

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