Leftover Copycat 

Most of you had been to the Olive Garden at least once.  For a chain they do a decent job of Italian dishes with an American touch.  My Mom loved their lunch of soup, salad and breadsticks.  I have to admit that I love the Zuppa Toscana!  While browsing my email I noticed a copycat recipe for this soup.  After checking out the recipe I decided I could create my own lighter version with leftovers I had in the fridge.   The copycat version had bacon and cream which I decided to omit.  First I took a link of already cooked Italian sausage, some previously sautéd spinach and fresh mushrooms from the fridge.  With a small onion, a clove of garlic, olive oil, butter, and chicken stock I was ready to tackle my masterpiece.  Trying to reduce my intake of carbs and with only a small amount of sausage I was replacing the potatoe and increasing the meaty feel with the mushrooms.  So I began chopping, sautéing, and tasting resulting in an amazingly healthy version of  this Tuscan style soup.

1 large link of cooked Italian sausage chopped in small pieces (you could use fresh and brown it first in a large pot)

1 small onion diced

1 large clove of garlic diced

2 cups of cremini mushrooms cleaned and roughly chopped

2 cups of baby spinach or baby kale (I used leftover spinach that I had already cooked)

1-2 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of soft butter

1 tablespoon of cornstarch

2 + cups of chicken broth

Heat a large pot and add olive oil. Begin by sautéing the sausage in the hot oil if yours is fresh; then remove from pan. If not start with the sliced mushrooms. Do not salt the mushrooms; cook about 11 minutes until nicely browned.  Add the onions and garlic cooking about 3 minutes then add the cooked sausage. While they are cooking together mix the soft butter and cornstarch to make a paste. Now add the chicken stock deglazing the pan and bring to a simmer. Mix in the butter paste and stir as the soup thickens. Add more stock if you need to thin the soup.  Taste for salt and pepper adding if necessary. Finally add the spinach and simmer until spinach is cooked!  Place a nice ladle full in a soup bowl then garnish with fresh grated Parmesan!  If you have had this soup at the Olive Garden you will be pleasantly surprised with this lighter version!

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