Vegan-tastic Zuppa Toscano

I haven’t been to Olive Garden in quite awhile…all that cheese and cream sauce and sausage, oh my.  I still remember the Zuppa Toscano, though.  Creamy and spicy with potatoes, greens and sausage; an ultimate comfort soup.  A soup you can make a meal out of.  But so not vegan.  Waaaaah.  Until now, that is!  Hurray for cashew cream and vegan sausage!  Hurray for a warm bowl of soup on a cold and rainy night!

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The original recipe’s been making the rounds on Facebook. Aside from veganizing, I also changed up some of the cooking to squeeze out even more flavor.  This link matches the image and the general idea of the recipe shared around Facebook.  Here’s what you’ll need for the vegan version I made:

ingredients

  • 1 lb. vegan Italian-style sausages ( I only had 3 sausages from the 4 pack, which worked out OK and reduced the fat in the recipe)
  • 4-6 potatoes, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp minced garlic (about 3-4 cloves
  • 32 oz. No Chicken broth
  • 2 c. kale or Swiss chard, chopped
  • 1 c. raw cashews, soaked for at least 2 hours in enough water to cover them by an inch
  • 4 tsp corn starch
  • 2 cups No Chicken Broth
  • salt, pepper and cayenne to taste

Lightly spray a non-stick pan with oil and brown the sausages.

brown sausage

Remove sausages from pan, cut each in half lengthwise and then slice into half-moons.

chop sausage

Chop the onion and peel the garlic.

chop onions peel garlic

Saute the onion in the same pan used for the sausage, adding a bit of No Chicken broth to deglaze the pan, releasing the yummy browned sausage bits into the onion.  Yum.  Saute until onions are translucent; about 5-7 minutes.

saute onions

Mince or press the garlic and add to the pan and continue to cook until garlic becomes fragrant; an additional 30 seconds or so.

add garlic

Scrub and chop potatoes into 1/2″ dice.

chop potatoes

Transfer potatoes, sausage, onions, garlic and 32 oz No Chicken broth to a slow cooker; veggies and sausage should be covered.  Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 5-6 hours on low.  Potatoes should be tender.

sausage onions garlic potatoes and broth in crockpot

After the cooking time, wash kale and remove the stems.  I only needed 2 leaves.  Chop into 1/2 to 1″ -ish pieces.  Small enough to stay on the spoon, but not so fine so it gets lost in the broth.

chop kale

Drain the cashews and place them along with 4 tsp corn starch and 2 cups No Chicken broth into a blender and blend until smooth.  This may take from one to five minutes–check it by rubbing it between your fingers–you want it as smooth as possible.  You may need to scrape down the sides during the blending time.  (Remember how to do this for future creamy soups and sauces–it’s creamy vegan MAGIC!)

cashews corn starch and broth

blend until smooth (1)

Add the kale and cashew cream to the crock pot, and cook an additional 30 minutes on high to thicken.

add kale and cashew cream

Season with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.

season

Ladle into bowls, add a nice warm wedge of bread or bread sticks and prepare to be amazed!  So, so yummy!  Michael pronounced it good enough to include in a weekly rotation; high praise.

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This is definitely NOT low-fat, but not too bad.  Fat comes from that light spray of oil, 10 grams per serving (1 link) of sausage and 13 grams per serving (1/4 cup) of cashews.

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While the soup was warming my house with its spicy aroma, it was cold and drippy outside.  I stood at the window, watching birds busy at the feeders and noticed someone else was watching the birds as well–the neighbor’s cat, Keshet!

keshet1

Keshet tends to do more watching than stalking and rarely kills a bird, but I have seen her with a mouse in her mouth, so I’m OK with her bird watching if she also keeps a few mice from trying to get into my house as the weather chills.

keshet2

Eventually my cat, Pookie wandered over to watch birds, and Keshet as well.

keshet3

You can see how dreary the day was in that last picture.  A great day for a vegan-tastic soup!

 

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Filed under comfort food, crock pot, dinner, lunch, Potluck, recipe, vegan, Vegetarian

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