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Zuppa Toscana – One of My Favorite Soups. Ever.

October 16, 2014

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We don’t eat at Olive Garden often, but whenever I find myself there during colder months, I always get the bottomless soup, salad & breadsticks. And even though they have several soups to choose from, I always stick with the Zuppa Toscana because it is, far and away, the superior option. So imagine my joy when a friend showed me how to make it. Turns out, it’s super easy.

Since we’re heavy into fall now and I love this soup, I chose to make it as my first non-Whole30 meal, and I made it for a lot of people. So I’m going to give you the amounts to make half of what I made (so disregard the sausage count in the picture and stuff like that – just follow the instructions. :) )

CopyCat Zuppa Toscana - The Olive Garden

The ingredient list for this soup is surprisingly short. Here’s what you need (again, disregard amounts shown – the stuff shown made a lot):

CopyCat Zuppa Toscana - The Olive Garden

In order of appearance, the ingredients are:
• 1/2 cup chopped bacon, most of the fat trimmed off
• 4 uncooked links of Italian sausage (mild or spicy, your call), casing removed
• 1 yellow onion, chopped
• 1 bay leaf
• 2 small garlic cloves, minced
• 1 qt of chicken stock
• 1 qt of water
• 3 medium russet potatoes, washed and sliced into half-moons (about 1/4 thick or so)
• 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flakes (the more you use, the spicier it will be…is a “duh” called for on this one?)
• 1 cup heavy cream
• 4 kale leaves, thick rib parts removed, leaves washed thoroughly and cut into pieces about 1 inch long.
• salt TT

First, preheat a 5 qt stock pot on medium/medium-high heat. Once heated, add the bacon and cook until almost crispy. Then, add the sausage in beat it up so it’s no longer in link form. Let that cook thoroughly and drain the fat. I do this by removing my stock pot from the heat, pushing the meat to one side of the stock pot, then propping the meat side of the pot up on an old rag or something, so the fat drains to the non-meat side. Did that make sense? Once the grease drains, you can spoon it out pretty easily. Leave a tablespoon or so of grease.

Quick note: the reason you cook the bacon first is because if you add both the bacon and sausage at the same time, the fat remaining on the bacon has a hard time rendering the way it should and you may end up with soggy pieces of bacon fat in your final soup. Not ideal. Moving on.

After you get most of the fat out, put the pot back onto medium heat. Once the meat starts to sizzle again, add the chopped onion and bay leaf and sauté for a minute or two. Add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds or so (this is why you left a tablespoon of grease in the pot – to sweat the onions and garlic. Also, doesn’t “sweating” vegetables sound so much worse when the vegetable is onions?).

Add the chicken stock and water, then bring to a boil. Add the sliced potatoes and red pepper flakes, cover, bring to a boil and reduce to simmer for 30 minutes.

When you’re about ready to eat, add the heavy cream, stir, then add the kale and simmer for 5 minutes. Taste and add salt as desired.

CopyCat Zuppa Toscana - The Olive Garden

I always serve soup with a hearty, artisan bread. Unless it’s chili, then I prefer cornbread (but that’s a post for another day). Give this soup a try (printable recipe below) and be sure to come back and tell me how you liked it. Or even if you didn’t, that’s cool too. :)

Cheers, Internet friends. Have a wonderful day.

CopyCat Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden)

This isn't really a mystery soup. There are lots of copycat recipes for it out there, and mine isn't very different from any of them. I'm not so much trying to blaze trails here as much as I am just encouraging more people to make this really awesome soup.
Prep Time15 mins
Cook Time50 mins
Total Time1 hr 5 mins
Servings: 8

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup chopped bacon fat trimmed
  • 4 uncooked links of Italian sausage milk or spicy, your call, casing removed
  • 1 yellow onion chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 medium garlic cloves minced
  • 1 qt of chicken stock
  • 1 qt of water
  • 2 large russet potatoes washed and sliced into half-moons about 1/4 thick
  • 1/2-1 tsp red pepper flake depending on desired spice level
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 4 kale leaves thick rib parts removed, leaves washed thoroughly and cut into 1 inch pieces
  • salt TT

Instructions

  • Preheat a 5 qt stock pot on medium/medium-high heat. Add the bacon to the heated pan and cook until beginning to crisp.
  • Add the sausage and break it up using a wooden spoon. Cook thoroughly.
  • Remove pan from heat and drain and remove all put approximately 1 Tbsp of grease from the pan.
  • Place the pot back on medium heat. Once the meat begins to sizzle again, add the chopped onion and bay leaf, and sauté until onion begins to become translucent.
  • Add the minced garlic and sauté until aromatic. Add the chicken stock and water, then bring to a boil.
  • Add the potatoes and red pepper flake, bring to a boil. Cover, reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
  • About 5 minutes before it's time to eat, add the cream and stir, then add the kale. Cover the pot and simmer for another 5 minutes. Add salt to taste.

What do you think?

  1. Rebecca says:

    Just wanted to let you know I made this soup last weekend and it was wonderful! Perfect for keeping us warm with the snow and cold outside. :) Thanks for sharing the recipe!

  2. i love this soup at Olive Garden. definitely will have to try your recipe.

  3. barbara says:

    I’ve been making the copycat recipe for several years now. It is a favorite! So yummy! I like a little more kale so I throw in some extra. My recipe doesn’t call for the red pepper flakes…better believe I’m trying that…life is always better with a little added hot and spicy!!!

  4. Bethany R says:

    My mom makes a version of a copycat recipe almost just like this! So stinking good.

  5. AshleyM says:

    This is one of my favorite soups to make and after mastering it, I now make it twice a month! I originally looked for a recipe because my husband always loved Olive Garden’s version, but I’m not a fan of Olive Garden, so I looked for an alternative that I could prepare at home. I am so glad I did, because it’s a family favorite!

  6. Meagan Briggs says:

    This looks amazing. I gotta make this when we FINALLY have a cold day.

    Question: how many cups of kale do you think 4 leaves makes? I usually buy the kale already cut in a big bag.

  7. Jeanna says:

    I love that stuff :) I always order it too.

  8. Trilby C. says:

    Mmmmm. I love this soup & have a very similar recipe. Because I’m weird, I like my soups to be a little more colorful (never mind that I just like to add as many veggies as I can to a recipe), so I always throw in a cup of finely diced carrots and celery as well. The best part of this soup is that it looks & tastes fancy, but it’s a breeze to throw together.

  9. Rachel C says:

    This looks really yummy! Thanks for sharing the ‘whys’ and special techniques (ie why to cook the bacon first, how you drain the fat)–I so appreciate learning those things from your recipes!

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