Souper-tasty and delicious, this Zuppa Toscana soup recipe makes one of my family’s favorite meals EVER.
Because we’re busy people, I don’t generally serve soup as a side. As with the stuffed acorn squash recipe, this is something I serve as a main dish. You could have it with a salad and it would be great, but this soup basically has a salad IN it, lol. One of the star ingredients in zuppa toscana soup is kale (or, alternatively, spinach).
I’ve made it many different ways, using ingredients I have on hand. Don’t get all wound up if you need to use frozen spinach instead of fresh (just thaw and drain it in a colander first), or garlic powder instead of minced garlic, or russet or red potatoes instead of yukon gold. Just make the soup! It will be so yummy in your family’s tummies. Promise.
When I first found a Zuppa Toscana soup recipe, I had never even tried the soup at Olive Garden. It just looked good and I had all the ingredients on hand. I tried really hard to find that first “OG soup dupe” that was my introduction to this scrumptious meal, and I saw a lot of variations, but not the exact one I used. (It was probably from AllRecipes, but I moved and lost the email account that was associated with my internet provider, so I’m locked out of my saved files.)
But that’s okay because I still know how to make it… and as I said before, you can substitute a lot in this recipe and it will still be great. In fact, when I was searching for other copycat Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana soup recipes, most of the ones I saw included bacon. Well, I had never used bacon in my soup. (Why not!?? Bacon is so good!) I just didn’t know it was a thing. And my soup was still the most amazing thing ever.
You know, my soup was so good, lol, that when I finally really tried Zuppa Toscana at Olive Garden, I was kind of … well… to be honest, I was a little disappointed. It was Good! Don’t get me wrong. But it wasn’t better than mine. Because my Zuppa Toscana soup recipe is the best one, I guess. 😀
Yours will be the best too. Just make it. Here’s the recipe as I remember it.
Italian sausage – I like hot Italian sausage the best, but you use what you want. You know what I’ve also used? Regular bulk pork sausage with Italian seasonings in it, like oregano, basil, and garlic. That’s just a little more work to do, but is a great substitute if regular pork sausage is what you have.
potatoes, cut into large bite-sized pieces – How many? It depends on the type of potatoes you’re using. If you’re using large russets, like what you would use for baked potatoes, you don’t need more than three. In the end, if you have 4-6 cups of cut up potatoes, you’ll probably be doing good. And make the dices rather large. Remember that they are going to cook for a while in the chicken broth, so larger pieces are not going to turn to mush as fast as small pieces. But you do want the pieces to fit on a spoon.
onions, diced – I use white or yellow, but remember: just make the soup! Use what you have on hand. Can you use onion powder? Hmm. I never have, but try it! You’ll lose the bulk and texture and fiber of the onions, but I keep saying “just make the soup,” so if you’re out of onions try onion powder or onion soup mix. It will probably be great.
celery with leaves – wash the stalk(s) of celery and cut just the tip of the ends, but leave the leaves on it. Soup is fancier with celery leaves. (And the celery flavor – which you want – is stronger in the leaves.) I use one or two, and I dice rather than slice. Can you omit the celery? Yes, definitely. Lots of recipes I saw don’t even include it.
half and half, heavy cream, or whole milk – I have no idea if you can substitute for a plant-based milk but I’m guessing you can.
chicken broth – I like homemade, but I’ve used bouillon cubes many times. If you do use the cubes, omit any additional salt until you’ve tasted your soup. Those cubes are SALTY! In this version, I used 2 cups of homemade chicken broth and 4 cups of water for a total of six cups of liquid.
parmesan cheese – as a garnish. It’s so good
red pepper flakes – super delicious as a topper at the end, along with the parmesan. I just bought some at Aldi, but if you’re a frequent delivery-pizza buyer, those little packs work too. (Ask me how I know. Back when we could afford to order pizza, we did! And I always had dozens of packets of red pepper flakes from various pizza chains. Ah, memories! Now I have a brand new fridge and have had no delivery pizza in our new home, so I had to buy red pepper flakes.)
fresh kale, fresh spinach, or even frozen spinach (thawed and drained) – If you have frozen spinach, put it in a colander in the sink and run some cool water over it to thaw it. Then, smush it down with a spoon to get the remaining water out of it. Now it’s ready to use. It still tastes good! Great, in fact. And that helpful hint makes zuppa toscana an easy meal to make from your freezer stash.
cream, half-and-half, or whole milk – I think the original recipe calls for heavy cream, but you can substitute other kinds of milk.
seasonings to taste – salt and pepper, maybe a dash of oregano, garlic, etc.
Remove sausage from casings if you bought this kind. If you bought bulk Italian sausage, you’re good.
Dice onions and celery. You can put them together in some kind of container.
Cut up the potatoes. I personally like cubes that are a little larger – maybe one and a quarter to one and a half inches (1 1/4″ to 1 1/2″) – but don’t stress over it.
Thaw your homemade chicken broth or crumble up the little bouillon cubes.
Instructions for making Zuppa Toscana:
- Crumble sausage into a large soup pot and brown the sausage over medium or medium-high heat until it’s fully cooked. Stand over it and keep it stirred so 1) it doesn’t burn or 2) morph into one huge clump of cooked sausage and c) so you can smell that great aroma of the sausage cooking. This takes some time – about five to seven minutes.
- If you end up with a lot of grease, drain most of it off. Leave one or two tablespoons.
- Over medium heat, stir your diced onions and celery into the sausage grease and saute a couple of minutes until they are less crispy.
- If you are using a stainless steel pot, you probably have brown bits sticking to the bottom about now. This is delicious flavor. Take a cup of the chicken broth and pour it into the hot pan. As it sizzles, stir around, scraping the bottom of the pot to get the browning incorporated into your broth. MMM, mmm! Nice.
- Now you have sausage, onion, celery, and one cup of broth in your soup pot over medium heat. It’s time for the potatoes. Gently dump in the potato pieces so you don’t splash yourself with the hot broth, then pour enough broth & water to cover the potatoes and everything else. Put a lid on your pot if you have one and wait for that to come to a boil, maybe 15 or 20 minutes.
- Grab your prepared spinach or kale and place it into the bubbly soup. Turn down the heat to about Low and stir occasionally until the spinach or kale is tender – about five minutes. Add milk and leave it on low heat another five minutes or just until it is heated through. Taste the soup and season with salt or pepper if it’s needed. (It might not be.)
- Serve topped with parmesan, bacon bits, and red pepper flakes.
You can store leftovers of your homemade Zuppa Toscana in the refrigerator for several days and either reheat it on the stovetop or in the microwave. It’s even better the second day, if it lasts that long! I hope this Zuppa Toscana soup recipe helps you bring your family or friends to the table to enjoy a good meal and good times together. It’s so easy and versatile, but has a warmth and distinct aroma and flavor that will stick with them and always remind them of home, even if home isn’t anywhere near Italy.
So delicious! Spicy, creamy, and hearty Tuscan soup made in your own kitchen with easy ingredients you can find in any grocery store.
- 3 to 4 slices bacon, cut into about 2-inch lengths (optional)
- 1 lb Italian sausage (hot or mild)
- 1 onion, diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 5 cups potatoes, cut up
- 5 to 6 cups fresh kale or spinach, chopped, or one package thawed and drained frozen spinach
- 2 cups homemade chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 cup cream
- 1 tbs parmesan cheese, grated
- 1 tbs red pepper flakes
- In a large soup pot on the stovetop, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp and done. Remove from pot and set aside on paper towels to absorb excess grease.
- Crumble Italian sausage into hot soup pot and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently to break up clumps until sausage is well-browned. Remove all but 1 or 2 tablespoons of grease from pot using a large spoon or by draining meat in wire mesh colander.
- Add onion and celery and stir just until vegetables are no longer crisp.
- Pour about a cup of the broth into the hot pan and scrape the bottom of the pan to loosen the brown bits.
- Add cut-up potatoes, cover with the rest of the chicken broth and all of the water. Cover and bring to a boil; turn down heat and let simmer until the potatoes are almost tender, about 20 minutes.
- Add the kale or spinach to the hot soup and stir. Cook just until the greens are wilted/softened, about five minutes. Turn heat down to low/medium-low, add 1 cup of cream or milk and heat through for an additional five or six minutes.
- Serve with toppings of parmesan cheese, bacon bits, and red pepper flakes.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 586Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 73mgSodium: 948mgCarbohydrates: 57gFiber: 14gSugar: 11gProtein: 28g