Based on the popular soup at Olive Garden, Zuppa Toscana is so creamy and loaded with Italian sausage, russet potatoes, and dark green kale.
Why you’ll love it: This soup is a treat, perfect for special occasions.
How long it takes: 55 minutes
Equipment you’ll need: large pan, stove, sharp knife, measuring utensils
This hearty soup, with sausage, kale, bacon, potatoes, and a broth bolstered with heavy cream and Parmesan cheese, is wonderfully delicious! It’s one of my family’s favorite soups and I often make it for guests, too.
Zuppa Toscana is a meat and potatoes soup, a stick-to-your-ribs kind of meal (according to Idioms Online, that phrase was first recorded in 1603!). If you think soups aren’t filling, you haven’t tried this one.
If you’re a fan of the soup that Olive Garden serves, you’ll love this version. I rather immodestly think my recipe is way, way better. Give it a try and let me know how you like my Zuppa Toscana!
About this Italian soup
Bacon, sausage, onions, garlic, potatoes, kale — you can’t go wrong with that line up. Add cream, Parmesan cheese, and fresh herbs and you know it’s going to be a winner.
I bet you can’t wait to get started. Here’s how to make this recipe, liberally sprinkled with helpful tips.
As always, the printable recipe with measurements and directions is found at the end of the post.
What you need
- Bacon: You’ll need six ounces of bacon, which is about six slices.
- Italian Sausage: Buy bulk sausage if you can. If you buy links, squeeze it out of the casing. Turkey or pork sausage is fine, whatever you prefer.
- Onion and Garlic: Lots of chopped onion and garlic! It doesn’t matter which type of onion you use: yellow, white, red, or sweet. I usually use regular yellow cooking onions for soups and stews.
- Russet Potatoes: You’ll need about three medium-sized potatoes. Substitute red or Yukon gold potatoes if you like.
- Chicken Broth: Choose unsalted or low salt chicken broth so that you control the amount of sodium in the soup.
- Kale: A bunch of kale (6 cups!) provides lots of green goodness. Chop it up into pretty small pieces that fit onto a spoon when cooked. It’s so awkward when you spoon up a long dangling piece of kale that doesn’t quite make it into your mouth.
- Heavy Cream: A cup of cream gives this soup a luxurious texture.
- Parmesan Cheese: Sharp and salty, a little Parmesan goes a long way.
- Red Pepper Flakes: Just a bit of spicy heat prevents this soup from becoming too cloying.
- Cornstarch/Water: A slurry of cornstarch thickens the soup making it taste like it’s loaded with cream when it’s really not. Just a little trick!
- Fresh Parsley and Basil: Fresh green herbs provide the finishing touch.
How to make This Recipe
You’ll need a good sized soup pan or Dutch oven. Plan on an hour to prepare and simmer this soup.
Cut up the onions and mince the garlic. Scrub the potatoes or peel them, and chop into half inch pieces. Wash and chop the kale. Assemble the rest of the ingredients.
Okay, now you’re ready to get the soup cooking!
Cook the bacon pieces in the pan until they’re crispy. You’ll be using those for a garnish. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain. Discard the excess grease in the pan, reserving one tablespoon or so.
Add the Italian sausage and onions to the pan, breaking up large chunks, and cooking until the onions are softened and the sausage is longer pink. Add the garlic and cook just briefly, one to two minutes.
Next in the soup is the potatoes, broth, and water. Simmer the potatoes until they are nearly fork tender.
Right near the end of the cooking, throw in the kale. Cook until the kale is soft but still a nice dark green.
Now you’re going to make the soup dreamy creamy. Stir in the heavy cream, Parmesan cheese, and red pepper flakes. The heat should be pretty low so the cream doesn’t curdle.
Here’s how to thicken the soup so it appears even more creamy (without adding calories). Make a cornstarch slurry (water and cornstarch) and stir it into the soup. Cook gently for a few more minutes to give the cornstarch a chance to thicken the soup.
Right before serving, stir in those fresh herbs. Garnish with the bacon you saved and additional Parmesan.
Serve this hearty soup in stoneware bowls with warm crusty bread. A rustic red wine like Chianti or Zinfandel matches well with this soup, or a nice brown ale.
You really gotta love soup because it’s not fussy about serving time. I like to make Zuppa Toscana on the stove, and then keep it warm in a crockpot until we’re ready to eat. Perfect for when you’re having guests! Zuppa Toscana has become a Christmas Eve tradition in our family.
Their menu describes it as spicy Italian sausage, fresh kale and russet potatoes in a creamy broth.
Translated as soup from Tuscany, the original soup hails from Tuscany, Italy, and differs from the North American Olive Garden version. Tuscan soup isn’t creamy, doesn’t include sausage, and contains additional ingredients: vegetables, tomatoes, and cannellini beans. It’s served on toasted Tuscan bread. This Italian Sausage Stew with White Beans and Kale is somewhat similar and it’s very easy to make.
Warm bread is a necessity! Try making an olive oil bread dip, or try this Italian herb and cheese pull-apart bread. A simple salad is a great go-along too. The endless salad served at Olive Garden is easy to make with crisp romaine lettuce, tomatoes, red onions, kalamata olives, and pepperoncini, dressed with Italian dressing, and topped with homemade croutons.
Make It your own
- If you prefer, omit the bacon. Or, if you’d like to make this recipe vegetarian, omit the sausage, too. Substitute mushrooms which have a meaty texture and are lovely in this Tuscan soup. Sauté sliced mushrooms (16 oz.) and onion in a tablespoon of olive oil, and continue with the recipe as directed.
- You can also make this Zuppa Toscana recipe keto or low carb by substituting mushrooms for the potatoes. Sauté sliced mushrooms (16 oz.) with the sausage and onion, and continue with the recipe as directed, omitting the potatoes.
- If you’re not a kale fan, substitute spinach. Since spinach is much more tender than kale, stir it in right before serving.
I have a few suggestions for getting a head start on this soup:
- Chop the onions up to a day ahead, storing them in an airtight container in the fridge.
- Wash and chop the kale up to 3 days in advance, storing in a plastic bag in the fridge.
- Scrub and dice the potatoes up to a day in advance. Cover with cold water and drain well before adding them to the soup.
This soup can be prepared a couple of hours in advance and kept on Warm in a slow cooker until you’re ready to serve it.
Storage & Reheating Suggestions
Zuppa Toscana is great leftover. I’m always so excited when we have leftover soup! It makes a wonderful lunch or another dinner.
Store cooled soup in a covered container in the fridge for up to three days.
Reheat in a saucepan on the stove over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the soup is hot. Try not to boil it. Or use your microwave to reheat the soup, in 30 second increments, stirring once or twice.
This soup does not freeze well. The potatoes will get a mushy texture and the soup may separate.
More hearty soup recipes
Warm up from the inside out with a warm bowl of delicious soup. I have so many soup recipes! Here are a few of my favorites:
- Bean and Bacon Soup (canned or dry beans!)
- Instant Pot Minestrone Soup Recipe — you can also make this soup on the stove.
- Easy Hamburger Soup Recipe — everyone loves this simple soup!
- Chunky Cheeseburger Soup — If you love a cheeseburger with all the toppings, you’ll love this soup!
- Copycat Panera Squash Soup Recipe – Vegetarian
- Instant Pot Black Bean Soup (no need to soak beans!)
- Instant Pot Broccoli Cheese Soup
- Slow Cooker Creamy Chicken Soup with Quinoa
- Slow Cooker Chicken Kale Soup – healthy & flavorful!
- Instant Pot Tomato Soup – creamy & easy to make!
- 6 ounces bacon, chopped (about 6 slices)
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage (or 19 ounces links, casing removed)
- 1 1/2 cups diced onion (about 1 medium onion)
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 medium russet potatoes, scrubbed or peeled and cut into 1/2 -inch pieces (about 1 1/2 – 2 pounds)
- 4 cups unsalted or low salt chicken broth
- 4 cups water
- 1 bunch of kale, stems removed, chopped (about 6 cups tightly packed or 6 ounces)
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, optional, more to taste
- 3 tablespoons cornstarch + 1/4 cup water
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot, cook bacon over medium-low heat until crispy, about 6 minutes. Remove from pan and place on a paper towel-lined plate. Remove all but about 1 tablespoon of bacon grease.
- Increase heat to medium and add Italian sausage and onion and cook, breaking up sausage, for 6-8 minutes or until onions are translucent and sausage is cooked through. Add garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes or until fragrant, stirring constantly.
- Add broth, water, and potatoes and increase heat to high to bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer (medium-low heat) and cook uncovered for 15 minutes or until potatoes are fork tender.
- When potatoes are done or almost done, add kale and cook until kale leaves are tender.
- Stir in cream, Parmesan, and red pepper flakes if using.
- In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water with a fork or whisk. Pour into soup and simmer until thickened. Stir in parsley and basil. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve garnished with bacon and additional Parmesan, if desired.
- Makes about 12 cups
- The soup can be prepared a couple of hours in advance and kept on Warm in a slow cooker until you’re ready to serve it.
- If desired, omit bacon. Continue with recipe as directed.
- If you don’t care for kale, substitute fresh spinach leaves. Stir in right before serving.
This website provides approximate nutrition information for convenience and as a courtesy only. Nutrition data is gathered primarily from the USDA Food Composition Database, whenever available, or otherwise other online calculators.