Zuppa Toscana is a rich and creamy, soul-satisfying soup made with Italian sausage, potatoes, and hearty kale. It’s a copycat recipe of the famous soup at Olive Garden. I could eat this stuff for days! Originally posted December 14, 2011.
Zuppa Toscana Olive Garden Copycat
Have you ever tried the Zuppa Toscana soup at Olive Garden? I love to go there for lunch and get their bottomless soup and breadsticks deal (technically I think this is called the “soup and salad deal” but let’s be real, I’m here for the bread and creamy soup.)
I posted a version of this recipe on the blog back in 2011, and still love to make it on cold winter nights. It’s a family favorite and a huge crowd pleaser!
I’m including a story I told about trying to find kale at the grocery store and failing miserably (I was 24 and knew a lot less things back then; I would say that it’s because the kale revolution hadn’t really taken hold yet, but the truth is that I was just even more of a charlatan back then than I am now.) Here’s a much younger Karen:
Sometimes I think schools should be required to teach a course on American produce items. It would have been more useful for me than, say, Algebra 2 was.
I had never bought kale before I made this soup. I went to the store, picked up 2 bunches of the green leafy things marked Kale, and went to the checkout. The cashier held them up: Turnips, right? “Uh, nope, it’s kale.” No, these are turnips, she said.
(I thought turnips were purple and bulbous. Am I basing this entirely on a magnet that my mom had on her fridge for years that depicted a fat little purple guy saying, Turnip your nose at fat! Yes.)
So I went back to the produce section to obtain the correct green leaves. I asked a bystander if she knew which one was kale, since they were obviously mislabeled. She looked around and told me that they must be out of kale because it wasn’t there. When I asked her what it looks like, she said that kale is crinkly and dark green, and that they use it as a garnish on serving plates sometimes. I smiled sweetly and thought to myself, No, that’s parsley. You’re an idiot.
Looking back, this is extremely harsh because obviously I have issues when it comes to identifying produce. And I really had to repent when last night at Eric’s work Christmas party, I saw, garnishing the carrots and cherry tomatoes on the vegetable tray, you got it: kale.
Well, vegetable confusion and judgments aside, I think this might be the best soup I have ever eaten. It’s a knock off of Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana. You’ve had it, right??
What is Zuppa Toscana?
Zuppa Toscana is Italian American fusion at it’s best! It literally translates to “Tuscan soup” and is a riff on a traditional Tuscan soup called minestra di pane (which means “bread soup”). Zuppa Toscana keeps the iconic kale and potatoes but adds Italian sausage and cream. Um, yes.
So basically it’s sausage and potatoes drenched in perfectly seasoned cream, with a little green kale to make you feel good about yourself. This fact, however, could not convince my 5-year-old niece to eat it. We told her, This is pretty much like eating melted ice cream. You do like ice cream, don’t you? She wasn’t buying it. I’m not complaining. More leftovers for me.
Zuppa Toscana Recipe Ingredients
So, kale. Did you read enough up there yet to figure out how to purchase it in the produce section the way I WASN’T? Here are the other ingredients you need while we’re at it.
- Kale (NOT turnips)
- Italian sausage. I like mild but spicy works great too.
- Large onion
- Russet potatoes
- Crushed red pepper
- Chicken broth
- Whole milk
- Heavy cream
- Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Kosher salt
How to make this Zuppa Toscana Soup Recipe
Zuppa Toscana is actually really easy to make, and it’s all done in one pot! Here’s a basic overview:
- In a soup pot, saute sausage and onion with spices and garlic.
- Add flour, chicken broth, and milk.
- Add the potatoes and simmer.
- Add chopped kale and cream, then later the Parmesan.
- Eat hot! Yum!
See how easy that is? I’ll walk you through it.
Start with some onions, garlic, and Italian sausage.
I like to use mild sausage and adjust the heat with red pepper flakes, but feel free to use hot sausage (or do a combo of both.) Here’s how I drain my sausage: line a bowl with foil, tilt the pot to the side, and use a ladle to spoon out the grease.
Use a food processor to slice all the potatoes, they cut it to the perfect size. You can just use a knife if you don’t have one. No need to peel, those skins add great texture! Add it to the pot after the broth and cook til tender.
Chop or tear your kale into bite size pieces. Make sure you cut out all the thick ribbing, nobody wants to chew through a thick stem. Use 1 big bunch of kale, or about 5 cups.
You’re going to feel so trendy and healthy adding all these magical superpower greens to your soup. Be sure to use your “Kale yeah!” tote bag today.
Except then you cancel out the kale magic by adding a pint of cream. No regrets. Yolo people.
How spicy is Zuppa Toscana Soup?
Zuppa Toascana is pretty mild at Olive Garden, but the beauty of making it homemade is that you can adjust the spice level! Use mild Italian sausage if you like it more tame (or feeding kids), use hot Italian sausage if you like it spicy. You can always increase the heat level with crushed red pepper flakes too, or add it to individual servings to kick up the spice.
How to thicken this Zuppa Toscana Soup Recipe
The cream gives this soup such a perfect thick and rich texture. We are also thickening the soup by making a soft roux in the beginning, that’s what the flour is for. That said, if you like it to be extra thick, consider mashing some of the potatoes with a fork before serving.
Storing and Reheating Zuppa Toscana (Does it freeze well?)
Yes! If you know ahead of time that you are going to freeze, stop the cooking process before the potatoes are fully soft. Then cook them over gentle heat after thawing. Potatoes can be frozen, but they are so watery that they tend to break down in the thawing process. Undercooking is best because it will help the potato hold together later.
Store Zuppa Toscana in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-4 days. For longer storage, freeze it in a ziplock or in a tupperware. You can try freezing it in individual portions for easy reheating! It warms beautifully in the microwave or on the stove on medium heat once it’s been defrosted in a microwave or in the fridge overnight.
Here’s an original photo from when I posted this back in 2011:
Oh dear. I’m pretty sure that purple thing is a pillow case??
More hearty soups you are going to love!
- Creamy Chicken Enchilada Soup (Chili’s Copycat Recipe) << this soup is another huge crowd pleaser!
- Beef Barley Soup (Slow Cooker) << still one of the most popular recipes on my site!
- The Best Chili Recipe I’ve Ever Made << still true to this day!
- Easy Cheddar Cauliflower Soup << this is my go-to recipe when I have an extra head of cauliflower hanging in the fridge.
- Cowboy Pinto Bean Soup << another classic from my mother in law. This soup has excellent flavor!
- Slow Cooker Minestrone Soup with Italian Sausage and Pesto << not a traditional minestrone but you will love the flavor! Pesto for life.
- Slow Cooker Chicken, White Bean, and Kale Soup (Slow Cooker) << another kale soup that you will adore.
- 20 Minute Creamy Tomato Basil Soup from Dash of Sanity
- Moroccan Carrot Soup with Cinnamon Hazelnuts from Snixy Kitchen
- Instant Pot Broccoli Cheddar Soup from Crunchy Creamy Sweet
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Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana Copycat Recipe
- 1 & 1/2 pounds Italian sausage, (I like mild)
- 1 large onion, chopped
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
- 2 tablespoons flour
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 3 cups whole milk
- 2 pounds russet potatoes, sliced
- 1 large bunch kale, about 5 cups
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
- Salt and pepper to taste
- more shredded Parmesan, to garnish
- In a large soup pot, add 1 and 1/2 pounds sausage over medium high heat. You can use mild sausage or a combination of hot and mild.
- Add 1 large onion, chopped. Use a wooden spoon to crumble the sausage.
- Add 2 teaspoons kosher salt and 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (remember you can always add more later). Continue sautéing for about 7-10 minutes, until the sausage is thoroughly cooked.
- Add 4 cloves of minced garlic. Sauté for one more minute, until garlic is fragrant.
- Turn off the heat and drain the grease from the soup pot. There are lots of ways to do this, but I usually tilt the pot to one side and ladle the grease out into a foil-lined bowl (then refrigerate the grease and toss in the garbage).
- Turn the heat back on to medium high and stir in 2 tablespoons flour.
- Once the flour is incorporated, slowly add 4 cups of chicken broth while stirring. You want the flour to thicken the broth, not get clumpy, so go slow.
- Slowly add 3 cups of whole milk while stirring.
- Scrub your potatoes well to get rid of the dirt, then use a sharp knife or food processor to slice the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick coins.
- Add the potatoes to the pot. Turn the heat down to medium and bring to a low boil.
- Once the soup is at a low simmer, continue simmering for about 20 minutes, until the potatoes are tender.
- Meanwhile, prep the kale. Wash it well and use a sharp knife to cut out the thick stems all the way up the leaf. Tear or cut the kale into bite size pieces.
- When the potatoes are tender, add the kale to the soup.
- Add two cups of cream and stir very gently. You don’t want to demolish all of your nice tender potatoes. Just move your spoon around enough so that all the kale is mostly covered with liquid.
- Turn the heat to low and let cook for another 15 minutes, until the kale is wilted.
- Gently stir in 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
- Serve with fresh shredded Parmesan cheese and a few grinds of black pepper.
Delicious! We will be making this again for sure!
I did half hot Italian sausage and half mild Italian sausage- Don Juan’s brand. It was the perfect mix of heat and flavor. Next time I’m going to try just 1 pound of sausage (instead of 1.5 lbs.) since it’s sold in 1 pound packages at my store.
So happy you loved it Ashley! Thanks for the tips! And yeah you can totally make this with just the one pound, make life easy!! thanks for reviewing Ash 💕
Anyway I could cut down some of the calories? I love the Olive Garden, and eat “bowls” of it when there, it is my favorite. But, didn’t realize that heavy cream and whole milk…what would you suggest? Just found out I’m pre-diabetic and will have to be more careful in my choices. Thanks.
Hi Connie! This recipe is truly best with the heavy cream and whole milk. I recommend limiting portion size rather than changing the recipe. It hasn’t been tested with any lower fat dairy products (they would change the taste and consistency significantly).
What is sprinkled on top at the end? Bacon? Fried onions? I don’t see any mention of toppings in the recipe other than Parmesan cheese.
Hi Sarah! It’s sprinkled with crushed red pepper!
Finally!!! This is an amazing recipe! Would NOT change a thing and definitely recommend the zesty hot sausage!!
It was delicious but next time I’ll leave the potatoes out. Didn’t care for them in the soup
This was a perfect recipe! Served with garlic croissants and I will make this again! Thank you!