Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana and the Famous Olive Garden Salad Dressing

I love duplicating favorite restaurant recipes at home. I get such a satisfaction of knowing I made something that tastes so similar to the original (and sometimes even better), costs less and that I can control the ingredients. The Olive Garden has been one of my favorite restaurants, but the last few times we've gone it just wasn't as good as I remembered it to be, and it seems to get more and more expensive every time we go. I don't know if my tastes have changed or what, but it's been disappointing to say the least. Another reason I like to make copycat recipes at home... I know it's good every time, so I'm sharing two of my faves with you today!

Zuppa Toscana is one of my favorite soups (especially in the Fall), but the first time I ever had it was not at the Olive Garden. My sister in law Jacque LOVES this soup, and she's been making it for years. See, my husband and his brother Nate are/were both in the Army, and for a few years Nate and Jacque were stationed in Germany. Since there were no Olive Garden restaurants in Germany, Jacque found this recipe online because she was constantly finding herself "hungry for it".

In 2007 when my husband deployed for 15 months, Nate and Jacque got stationed at Ft. Lewis where we were. They ended up moving into the same apartment complex we lived in, and were literally across the parking lot from us. Since my husband was gone, we ended up hanging out almost everyday after I'd get off of work. We'd have dinner together and just chill. One night Jacque made Zuppa Toscana. She suggested seasoning my bowl of soup with Old Bay seasoning. Let me just tell you, I fell in love with Zuppa Toscana, and the Old Bay is a must! I have a hard time eating this soup without it now! Which means I almost never order it at the OG.

Now, who doesn't love the never-ending salad from the Olive Garden? I know I do, so I was excited to find this copycat salad dressing recipe. It's actually the second recipe I tried for an OG copy cat. The first one wasn't even close. I have no idea what the original author was thinking in saying it was remotely close to the OG original! However this recipe is wonderful! I was a bit bummed that the recipe called for a packet of salad dressing, but nevertheless, it's very very close to the Olive Garden dressing!

The Zuppa Toscana is very, very close to the Olive Garden version. I like it just as much, if not more! It's great served with a nice salad and breadsticks! Just like the Olive Garden, duh ;)

Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana from Food.com

1 lb Italian sausage (I like mild sausage)
2 large russet baking potatoes, sliced in half, and then in 1/4 inch slices
1 large onion, chopped
1/4 cup bacon bit, optional (I usually omit)
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 cups kale or 2 cups swiss chard, chopped
2 (14.5 ounce) cans chicken broth
4 cups water
1 cup heavy whipping cream (I've used whole milk or half and half with great results)

Chop or slice uncooked sausage into small pieces.

Brown sausage in your soup pot.

Add chicken broth and water to pot and stir.

Place onions, potatoes, and garlic in pot.

Cook on medium heat until potatoes are done.

Add sausage and bacon.

Salt and pepper to taste.

Simmer for another 10 minutes.

Turn to low heat.

Add kale and cream.

Heat through and serve.

Olive Garden Salad Dressing from The Country Cook

1 packet Good Seasonings Italian Dressing
(Ingredients needed to make dressing; oil, water, vinegar)
½ tsp. dried Italian Seasoning
½ tsp. table salt
¼ tsp. black pepper
½ tsp. sugar
¼ tsp. garlic powder
½ tbsp. mayonnaise (no Miracle Whip, please)
¼ cup olive oil
2 tbs. white vinegar
1 ½ tbsp. water

Prepare Good Seasonings Italian Seasonings Dressing as it states on back of packet.

The packet makes just a small bit of dressing.

 Once prepared, pour dressing in a medium bowl, then add additional ingredients
listed above (starting with the dried Italian Seasoning).

Using a whisk, mix all ingredients until mixed thoroughly combined and pour it into a container with a lid.
Mason jars also work well for this.

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