November 27, 2012

Zuppa Toscana

There are so many times I've eaten in a restaurant and wished I could make a certain dish at home. Over time, I realized I could have my favorite dishes at home. All it took was a little perseverance and a lot of experimentation.

This soup isn't actually my favorite dish, it's the Hubs'. I can't count how many times I've asked where he wanted to eat, and he always answers, 'Olive Garden, soup and salad!' Specifically, he wants Zuppa Toscana. 

Naturally, I went to work, determined that I would outdo Olive Garden's recipe.

The Hubs thinks I succeeded, and that's good enough for me!

Of course, now he requests this soup every week. Though I love this zuppa (did you know zuppa means soup in Italian?), I don't want to eat it every single week. I like variety in life! The Hubs, on the other hand, will eat the same thing over and over until he never wants to eat it again.

It's a rough life, but I manage somehow.

Haha. Ok, so it's not that bad. But I do regulate the frequency of our zuppa intake, otherwise we'd be eating this all the time.

So let's get the party started! The ingredient list for this soup is simple:

The ingredients, minus one (as per the usual) 

Start with 1 lb. of Italian sausage. I like to use the 'mild' version, but you can work with the 'hot' if you prefer. The reason I like the mild is because I want to control the spice level myself. I do this by adding a bit of red pepper flakes to the sausage as I cook it (The red pepper is the ingredient not pictured. It wouldn't be one of my recipes if I didn't forget at least one ingredient in the picture).

Brown your sausage in a skillet, adding red pepper flakes if you choose. I only add 1/2 teaspoon (sometimes a little more, I don't always measure!), but you can add as much or as little as you want. The Hubs likes his extra spicy, so we add more to his soup at the end.

Once brown, drain the fat, then set your sausage aside. Pull out your soup pot. Add 4 slices of bacon (chopped into bite-sized pieces) into the pot. I have to be honest, we usually add an extra piece of bacon. Everything is better with more bacon!

Cook the bacon over medium-high heat. When it's about halfway done, add 5 cloves of minced garlic and one white onion (diced) to your soup pot. Continue to saute until the onions are translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

Next, add 8 cups of low-sodium chicken broth to the pot, along with 2 cups of water. I suggest the low-sodium broth because the sausage and bacon are both salty already. You can always add more salt later if you like, but you can't take it away if it's already in there!

Bring the broth to a gentle boil, then add 3 large Russet potatoes (peeled and chopped) to the pot. Keep in mind that your potatoes should be chopped into similar sizes so they cook evenly. Continue to boil until the potatoes are tender, about 25-30 minutes.

Boiling broth

If the potatoes are tender, you're almost done! Stir 1 1/4 cups heavy cream into the broth, along with your cooked sausage.

Picture courtesy of Abby, from 1,000 Miles on my Own Two Feet

Allow this mixture to heat through before adding the final ingredient: freshly chopped kale. Kale is a wonderful green for soups, but there are substitutes if your local grocery doesn't stock it. Look instead for Swiss Chard or spinach (Don't use the spinach from a bag, use the fresh bundles instead). I actually just tear my kale into pieces, rather than chopping it. So much easier! Stir in as much or as little as you like, but we use about 3 cups or so.

The kale takes no time at all to wilt, so simply stir and you're done. Test your zuppa for seasoning, add salt and pepper to taste. And, viola! Zuppa Toscana at home.

Zuppa Toscana

The Hubs and I sprinkle our soup with a bit of fresh grated Parmesan cheese right before serving. It's the perfect final touch! For those of you (like me) who cook in advance when they can, this soup freezes well. Just let the zuppa cool to room temperature, then add to freezer-safe ziploc bags. Freeze the bags flat on a cookie sheet, then store until you need them. I like to make single-serving sizes as well, especially for those times when the Hubs is away. Just because you're cooking for one, doesn't mean you can't eat well!

What are your favorite restaurant recipes that you wish you could make at home? Please share in the comments, especially if you have a recipe! I've included the standard form recipe at the bottom of this post for you.

As always, happy cooking!

Thanks for reading, everyone!
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The Standard Form:

Zuppa Toscana


1 lb. ground Italian sausage
1/2 - 1 ½ teaspoons red pepper flakes
1 large white onion, diced
4 slices bacon, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
8 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 ¼ cup heavy cream
3 large Russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
3 cups kale, washed and roughly chopped
Salt and pepper, to taste
Fresh grated Parmesan cheese, for garnish


Sauté the Italian sausage with the red pepper flakes until done. Drain any fat from the pan and set aside.

In a large soup pot, sauté the bacon. When the bacon is a little more than half-cooked, add the onion and garlic to the pot. Sauté until the onions are translucent and tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the chicken broth and water to the soup pot. Bring to a gentle boil, then add the potatoes. Boil until the potatoes are tender, bout 25-30 minutes.

Stir in the cooked sausage and the cream. Heat through before adding the kale. Season with salt and pepper. Serve hot with fresh grated Parmesan. 


  1. Hello Allie,

    Thanks for the recipe! I think your soup was better than the O.G.! I am looking forward to trying it out myself.

    I want to get your recipe for Spaghetti sauce too :-) please!


    1. No worries, the spaghetti sauce will be here soon! I'm glad everyone enjoyed this :)

  2. Hi Allie,
    Our daughter, Abby, was a photo contributor for this recipe.
    She text us that with your blog address; stating, "I think you guys would really love this soup! It is right up your alley!"
    So we checked it out. Great job Allie, beautiful pictures, well explained (we LOVE the asides ... the hubs likes this.... I must confess I always add and extra piece of bacon) fully explored and reasoned!
    Thank you we can't wait to try your Tuscon Soup.
    S and C

    1. I'm glad you enjoyed the post! This is one of the most popular soups I make... it helps that it's pretty simple and tastes delicious! Let me know if you try it out and how it went for you :)