Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana (à la Olive Garden… I think?)

I keep seeing commercials on TV here for Olive Garden, which leave me conflicted.  I’m an avid member of Chowhound, where people post comments like “their reputation for serving mediocre, bland and disappointing food is very much deserved” and the food is “consistently mediocre”.  However, I grew up in an area without an Olive Garden, and I always thought that unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks sounded like the best lunch ever.  And for a picky-eating kid, who didn’t really like meat OR vegetables, those heaping plates of pasta looked pretty appealing too!  Now I live in a city that has an Olive Garden, and I’ve eaten there twice.  Both times I’ve been simultaneously underwhelmed and excited… it’s a bit like a trip to Disneyland in July!  Sadly, Olive Garden’s unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks combo isn’t as appealing today as it would have been when I was a kid, because only one of their soups is vegetarian.  I looked online at their website and decided to try to recreate Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana at home- vegetarian style!  And it turned out great!  The “Italian sausage” breaks down a bit during a brief saute, which really flavours the broth and makes the soup taste like it was simmering on the stove for hours.

Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana à la Olive Garden (Serves six.)

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 package Tofurkey Italian Sausages (four sausages in total), cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 8 new baby potatoes, halved then sliced
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • 100 grams spinach, chopped
  • 1 cup half-and-half cream (or “milk” product of your choice)

Heat the olive oil on medium heat, then add onion and bay leaf.  Saute until translucent, then add garlic and saute three more minutes.

Add the potatoes and the Italian sausage, and saute for five minutes.  Stir frequently.

Add vegetable stock, bring to a boil, cover, reduce heat and simmer for twenty minutes.

Remove bay leaf, then add spinach.  Simmer ten more minutes.

Add cream and serve!

Nutritional Estimate: 365 calories, 18 grams of fat, 30 grams carbs, 7 grams fibre, 22 grams protein. 

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