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