I've just discovered, via the wonders of Google, that the Olive Garden restaurant serves a soup called "Zuppa Toscana." Never having eaten it, I have no idea how much or how little it resembles last night's rendition. From a "copycat recipe" site, though, I get the impression that it's not too wildly far off.
Both have got sausage, anyway, and onion and kale… this one is devoid of bacon fat, which I think might have overwhelmed it a bit. And the OGZT* includes cream, which this one doesn't. The broth is so delicious on its own that I think cream would have gilded, swamped and drowned the proverbial lily here.
And this one is fo-sho spicy, as I made it, though it would be criminally easy to substitute mild sausage and bring the heat level down to something to which no one but Lady Blancmange of Blandville could possibly object.
Delicious spicy sausage in a soup you can actually feel good about eating! (Two bowls of it, even, which is what we all had last night!) And it takes maybe half an hour, tops, from start to finish! What could be finer?
Spicy Tuscan Sausage-Kale Soup
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 to 3/4 pound spicy Italian sausage, either bulk or removed from casings
1 large onion, diced
1 large red bell pepper, diced
1/2 tsp salt
6 cups chicken broth
About half of a large bunch of kale, thick stems trimmed out, leaves rolled and sliced into thin ribbons–probably about 3-1/2 cups of kale all told. (It will cook down quite a bit.)
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese (I used a Wisconsin Grana Parmesan, and it was dee-licious)
Ground black pepper
Additional grated Parmesan for serving
In a soup pot, combine olive oil and sausage over medium heat. Cook, stirring constantly, until sausage is nicely broken up; then cook, stirring frequently, until sausage is well browned and has rendered most of its fat. If there's too much fat in the pan (more than about 3 Tbsp or so), pour some of it off. I didn't have to pour any off and the end result wasn't greasy; but your results will undoubtedly vary.
Add onion and bell pepper. Cook, stirring frequently, until onion is translucent and bell pepper is tender, about 7 minutes. Sprinkle in salt and cook, stirring, about 1 minute more. (You'll notice I didn't add garlic here. If I had used mild sausage, I probably would have put in two or three cloves along with the salt.)
Add broth and kale. Bring to a boil; cover, reduce heat and simmer until kale is tender, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove soup from heat; whisk in Parmesan and some pepper; taste to see if it needs more salt or pepper.
Serve with delicate downy tufts of Parmesan crowning each bowl.
* I suppose that could either be "Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana" or "Original Gangsta Zuppa Toscana." Guess which one sounds better?