Love the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana? It's so simple to recreate it at home. This creamy sausage, bacon, potato, and kale soup is total comfort food!
Sausage, Bacon, Potato, and Kale Soup
If you haven't tried Zuppa Toscana yet, it's about time you do! It's immensely popular for a reason. It's simple to make even for new cooks, very satisfying, and feels like a cozy yet impressive treat that you could easily serve for company.
Ours has everyday fresh and inexpensive ingredients, and you can control exactly what's going into this robust soup that's inspired by the Olive Garden favorite. Our kitchen may be biased, but we think you might agree this copycat recipe is way better than the original.
What is Zuppa Toscana?
- "Zuppa Toscana" literally means "Tuscan soup", but from an American point of view, it commonly refers to the soup found at the Olive Garden restaurant with sausage, kale, and bacon. It's a fairly brothy (not too thick) soup that's definitely not authentic Italian, but it sure is tasty.
Ingredients you'll need
- Bacon - I chose thick cut
- Sausage - Johnsonville mild Italian is my go-to variety for this soup. Ground sausage meat is good too.
- Onion and garlic - our aromatic base. I like sweet Vidalia onions, and using this garlic press makes it effortless to mince the garlic.
- Broth and water - I prefer using chicken broth, but beef broth works as well
- Potatoes - we like using red potatoes with their skins on
- Italian seasoning - fragrant dried herbs like rosemary and thyme are found in this tasty blend that's all in a single jar
- Heavy cream - it's what makes that broth irresistibly creamy!
- Kale - another signature component for a burst of freshness
What's the best kind of potatoes to use?
- I typically use red, but Russet potatoes, Yukon Gold, or even other varieties will work just fine. I don't peel them, but you definitely can.
- This soup is pretty forgiving on the quantity of potatoes. I typically use four medium-to-large red potatoes, which I know is really subjective. I'd aim for around 1.5 pounds of potatoes if you're looking for a specific weight.
How to make Zuppa Toscana
This is an overview with step-by-step photos. Full ingredients & instructions are in the recipe card below.
Sauté the bacon in your soup pot or Dutch oven. Give it a few minutes head start prior to adding the sausage pieces. Cook until the bacon is crispy and the sausage is browned. Meanwhile, prep the remaining ingredients as it's cooking.
Add the onion and garlic to the pot and sauté for 2-3 minutes, then add the chicken broth and water to the pot, followed by the potatoes and Italian seasoning. Bring the soup to a boil, and cook until the potatoes are done.
Stir in the cream and kale. Cook for another 5-10 minutes or so until the kale is nice and tender to your liking. Season with salt & pepper to taste!
Crockpot and Instant Pot methods
- Want to make it in your Instant Pot? Head on over to my Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana recipe.
- To make Zuppa Toscana in a slow cooker, do steps 1-4 (in the recipe card below) in a skillet, and then transfer to your Crockpot. Add in remaining ingredients except for the cream, kale, and salt & pepper. Cook for 3-4 hours on high or 6-8 on low, then add in the cream and kale about 20-30 minutes prior to serving. Season with salt & pepper as desired.
Substitutions and variations
- A lot of people like a spicy version, so feel free to use hot Italian sausage if you want a kick, or try 1/4 tsp or more of crushed red pepper flakes for a gentle heat.
- Substituting spinach instead of the kale works fine, but it'll wilt much faster, so make sure to watch it carefully.
- If you need to, replace the cream with half-and-half, but with recipes like this, I prefer to go all out. You can't beat real cream, in my opinion!
- Go ahead and grate some fresh parmesan cheese on top for even more luxuriousness.
Leftovers and storage
- This soup makes great leftovers. It'll keep in the fridge in an airtight container for 3-4 days.
- If you freeze the soup, it can separate a bit when reheating, though, so reheat on a low temperature and stir it well. Alternatively, if you're planning for a lot of leftovers, just add in the cream when thawing and reheating.
Have you tried Zuppa Toscana? Leave a comment below. Questions? Let me know! You can also tag me on Instagram #saltandlavender with your beautiful creations.
Easy Zuppa Toscana
- 5 strips of bacon (thick cut works best)
- 1 pound Italian sausage see note
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 2 cups chicken broth (beef works too)
- 4 cups water
- 4 large red potatoes diced (leave skins on)
- 1/4 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 1 cup heavy/whipping cream
- 1 small bunch of kale torn into bite-size pieces (remove stems)
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Using kitchen shears (or a knife), cut the bacon into small pieces and add it to a pot. Cook for 5 minutes over medium-high heat to give the bacon a bit of a head start before adding in the sausage.
- Add the sausage meat to the pot.
- Allow the sausage and bacon to get nicely browned and crispy (this can take 15+ minutes). Stir occasionally. There may be quite a lot of fat in the pot (especially if you're using thick cut bacon), so you may want to spoon some out and discard it, but be sure to leave a few tablespoons in there as it adds flavor.
- Stir in the onions and garlic. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
- Add the chicken broth, water, potatoes, and Italian seasoning to the pot.
- Increase the heat to high and bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to medium-low heat to simmer.
- Cook for 10-15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
- Add in the cream and kale, and cook for a further 5 minutes or until the kale is soft and wilted. Season with salt & pepper as needed.
- To save prep time, I chop the onion and potatoes while the bacon and sausage cook.
- For the sausage, either use ground sausage meat or a pack of Italian sausages (I use a 5-pack of Johnsonville mild Italian sausages that's 500g/17.6 oz. here in Canada) and take the meat out of the casings. A little more than a pound is totally fine!
- Russet or Yukon Gold potatoes would work if you don't want to use red potatoes. Aim for approx. 1.5 pounds of potatoes.
- Nutritional information is provided as a courtesy only and should be construed as an estimate rather than a guarantee. Ingredients can vary and Salt & Lavender makes no guarantees to the accuracy of this information.
This post was originally published on September 23, 2015. I've updated it with new photos, text, and a better written recipe!