If I had access to kale, I’d have used a bunch in lieu of white cabbage. If I had, this would be a real zuppa Toscana, that famed Italian soup that chef Emeril Lagasse swears his mother cooks the best version of. But I don’t know where to buy kale — in my lonely corner of suburbia or anywhere else in this country. Armed with the information that it is a variety of cabbage, I figured I’d just use white cabbage.
The result is a hearty soup that is a complete meal by itself. So rich, so filling, so comforting. Perfect for the rainy weather.
What, exactly, is zuppa Toscana aside from the fact that kale is an ingredient? Essentially, it is a sausage and vegetables soup to which cream is added. To draw out all the flavors from the sausage meat, it is first browned then simmered slowly with the vegetables. The cream is added toward the end.
Some notes before going into the recipe. First, any soup starts with good broth. Really good broth. I always recommend homemade broth.
I like to make a huge pot then freeze the broth in batches so that every time I want to make soup, all I have to do is thaw one container.
I understand that making broth from scrap bones isn’t up everyone’s alley. There are canned broths in the market. Or even broth cubes. But I really and empathically discourage those with MSG — not for health reasons but because MGS drowns out the flavors of the other ingredients in the dish.
Second, what sausage to use? Italian sausage is associated with sausages seasoned with paprika (ergo, they appear reddish) and are both hot and a bit sweet. While you can use any sausage that you like (canned Vienna sausage and hotdogs don’t really count), I suggest you choose a spicy kind. We buy ours from Monterey. Note though that different outlets have different standards for sausage-making. Sausages from Monterey at Cherry’s Supermarket in Antipolo are just terrible, for instance. We like the sausages from Monterey Marcos Highway in Cainta just outside Town & Country Executive Homes. I’ll leave it to you to source your sausage and the rest of the ingredients.
The rest is pretty much basic cooking.
Cook the sausage meat until lightly browned (there is no need to add oil since the sausage meat will render its own fat).
Add the chopped onion and cook gently over medium heat with occasional stirring until the onion bits soften slightly.
Don’t worry if brown matter starts to form at the bottom of the pan. That is FLAVOR.
Pour in the wine. Stir and scrape the bottom of the pan. We are now deglazing to remove the brown matter that’s sticking on the pan and to get all the flavors into the soup. Let the mixture boil gently for about five minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate, leaving only the rich flavors of the wine in the pot.
Add the carrots, potatoes and cabbage. Stir.
Pour in the broth, little by little. Use only enough to cover the meat and vegetables. Season with salt. Bring to the boil, cover and simmer for at least 30 minutes. That should be just enough time to cook the vegetables through. For best results, halfway through the 30-minute cooking time, taste the broth and add more salt, as needed.
Pour in the cream. Stir. When the mixture starts to simmer, turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Taste and add more salt if needed.
And that’s it! Your creamed sausage, potato and cabbage soup a la zuppa Toscana is ready to serve.
- about 200 g. of spicy sausage
- ½ c. of chopped onion
- 1 c. of dry white wine (please don’t ask for brands — any wine you’d care to drink will be good enough)
- 2 c. of cubed potatoes
- 1 c. of cubed carrots
- 2 to 3 c. of sliced white cabbage
- about 8 c. of broth
- salt, to taste
- 1 c. of cream (please click here before asking what brand of cream)
- ¼ c. of chopped parsley
- Slit the sausage skin, peel off and discard. Break the sausage meat into small clumps.
- In a large thick-bottomed pot, brown the sausage meat in its own rendered fat over medium heat.
- Add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion bits are soft and translucent.
- Pour in the wine scraping the bottom of the pan as you pour. Boil for five minutes until the liquid is reduced.
- Add the rest of the vegetables.
- Pour in the broth little by little until all the solids are covered in liquid. Stop adding broth at that point. You do not want to use too much liquid. Bring to the boil, lower the heat and simmer for half an hour. Taste occasionally and add salt as needed.
- Pour in the cream and stir well. When the soup starts to simmer, turn off the heat. Sprinkle in the parsley and stir. Taste the soup one last time and adjust the seasonings, if needed.
- Serve the creamed sausage, potato and cabbage soup a la zuppa Toscana with buttered bread.