Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup with spicy Italian sausage, bacon, fresh kale, and russet potatoes in a rich and creamy broth is gluten free, packed full of protein, and bursting with delicious flavor.
Even better than the restaurant version, this copycat Zuppa Toscana soup is made in one pot, easy to prepare, and is always a family favorite.
Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Soup
This year, like a lot of you, we’ve really limited our eating out — except in our back yard, of course! All puns aside, what I miss most about dining out is the atmosphere and meeting up with friends.
When it comes to flavor, however, making Zuppa Toscana soup at home is even better than eating out!
My hubby will tell you that because of our recent cooking adventures, he’s gotten really particular and dining out doesn’t hold the same appeal that it once did. I’m all good with eating in more as long as my sous chef continues helping with the clean up!
As for this Zuppa Toscana, it’s the North American version of Italy’s Tuscan soup. The original version is more like chili with zucchini and beans in a tomatoey broth.
I prefer the Olive Garden recipe myself. After all, there’s a reason it’s one of the all-time most popular items on their menu. It’s just outright delicious! 😋
Ingredients and substitutions
- Italian sausage — mild or spicy
- Onion — white or yellow
- Red pepper flakes — optional
- Chicken broth — may also use vegetable broth
- Potatoes — Russet, Yukon Gold, or Red Potatoes
- Curly kale — may substitute fresh baby spinach or Swiss chard
- Heavy cream — for less calories, use half and half or milk instead
- Bacon — fried crisp and crumbled
- Kosher salt
- Freshly ground black pepper
- Shredded Parmesan cheese — optional for garnish
- Prep all the ingredients first so you have everything ready when you start cooking—peel and dice potatoes, chop the onion, mince the garlic, and remove kale leaves from the stems.
- Next, crumble and cook the Italian sausage in a Dutch oven, then add the onions.
- Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant.
- To the pot add the chicken broth and potatoes. Cook until the potatoes are tender.
- Last, stir in the kale and heavy cream, cooking until the kale is just wilted.
- Use Yukon Gold potatoes which have thinner skins and skip peeling the potatoes. Just scrub and dice.
- Fresh garlic tastes best, but you can use jarred minced garlic in a crunch.
- Leave out the bacon (no frying and crumbling) entirely or use leftover breakfast bacon.
Potato soups are not the best for freezing because when thawed, the potato texture can become grainy. Likewise, soups that include dairy products usually don’t freeze well.
Leftover soup is a wonderful thing to have in your fridge for lunches later in the week. To store soup, ladle leftovers into smaller containers so that it cools quicker, then store for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
Cooking with kale
Kale is a nutrition superstar, making it a great ingredient to incorporate into your diet whenever possible. Kale is packed with vitamins A, K, B6, and C as well as calcium and potassium.
When cooking with kale, always remove the tough middle rib or stem which can leave a bitter taste. The rib can be easily removed by hand or with kitchen shears.
More pro tips
- Cook soup in layers. Brown or sear the sausage first, then add the vegetables in order based on which ones will require more time for cooking.
- Sauté aromatics. Slowly cook onions or garlic until very tender and caramelized to release their best flavor.
- Garnish like a chef. Save some of the crumbled bacon to sprinkle on top of each bowl of Zuppa Toscana along with shredded Parmesan cheese. End with a grind or two of black pepper.
- Add freshness. Think about adding chopped fresh Italian parsley in place of the bacon garnish.
What goes with Zuppa Toscana?
- 1 lb. ground Italian sausage, mild or spicy
- 1 medium white onion, chopped
- 3 cloves of garlic, minced
- 1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 6 cups low-sodium chicken broth
- 4 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes
- 4 cups curly kale, leaves removed from the stem and torn into pieces
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 5 - 6 slices bacon, fried crisp and crumbled
- shredded Parmesan cheese, for serving
- Into a Dutch oven over medium high heat, crumble the Italian sausage. Add the diced onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is no longer pink.
- Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook for 30 seconds, until the garlic is fragrant. Drain off the extra grease in the pan.
- Add the chicken broth and diced potatoes. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 10 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
- Reduce the heat to medium and stir in the kale and cream. Cook for 3 to 4 minutes, until the kale is just wilted.
- Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into bowls and top with the bacon and shredded Parmesan cheese, if desired.
Some sausage processors add gluten products to their Italian sausage, so be sure to check the label to confirm. I use the Johnsonville brand and it is certified gluten free.
If the broth is too thin: Make a slurry by whisking together equal parts water and cornstarch (about 1 1/2 tablespoons) and slowly add to simmering soup to thicken the broth.
To store soup: Ladle leftovers into smaller containers so that it cools quicker, then store for up to 3 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
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Amount Per Serving: Calories: 477Total Fat: 31gSaturated Fat: 14gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 18gCholesterol: 78mgSodium: 1448mgCarbohydrates: 30gFiber: 4gSugar: 5gProtein: 20g
Sheila Thigpen, author of Easy Chicken Cookbook and The 5-Ingredient Fresh and Easy Cookbook, is a recipe developer, food photographer, and food writer. She spent 20+ years as a business manager in the publishing industry before she retired in 2018 to focus on her passions — cooking, photography, and writing. Living near the beautiful Smoky Mountains, Sheila and her husband have two adult daughters and two fine sons-in-law, are active in their church, love to travel, and have a precious little granddaughter who has stolen their hearts. Follow Sheila on YouTube, Pinterest, Instagram, Facebook, and Twitter!