If you haven’t had the pleasure of dipping bottomless buttered breadsticks into brothy homemade soups, let us be the first to introduce you to one of Olive Garden’s menu favorites, zuppa Toscana. Inspired by the hearty sausage and potato soup of Tuscany, this zuppa is filled with bacon, shallot, garlic, and kale, and finished with delicious cream and Parmesan. It’s an Italian classic and an Olive Garden staple, and is shockingly easy to make at home any day of the week.
Gather your zuppa Toscana ingredients
A good zuppa Toscana starts with crispy bacon and browned Italian sausage. You can use any kind of bacon cut into pieces, and either mild or hot sausage. If you use hot sausage, just note that the final color of the soup will be a darker shade of orange from the spice.
After the meat, you’ll need shallot, lots of garlic, a splash of dry white wine, and peeled potatoes. You can swap the shallot for sweet onion and use your favorite wine (we recommend sauvignon blanc). Gold potatoes will be the perfect balance of creamy and firm, but you can use red potatoes for a more chunky soup and russets for something a little softer. Use chicken or vegetable broth to simmer the ingredients in or swap for water in a pinch. The seasonings here are simple; salt, pepper, rosemary, and a pinch of red pepper flakes for some heat. Once the potatoes are softened, wilt a generous portion of kale or spinach into the soup and add heavy cream for a perfect creamy broth. Want to keep it dairy-free? Skip the heavy cream and mash some of the potatoes into the broth instead. If dairy is your thing, top generously with grated Parmesan.
Crisp the bacon and brown the sausage
Start by cooking the bacon pieces in a large pot or Dutch oven. You won’t need oil, and can cook the sausage and vegetables in the bacon drippings for great flavor. Cook until crispy, then add the sausage and crumble while it browns. Use a slotted spoon or spatula to remove the bacon and sausage from the pot so that you can soften the vegetables next.
Build the soup
Swirl the shallot and garlic into the reserved bacon fat and cook until just softened, only about 2 minutes; around which your kitchen will start smelling luxurious. Without allowing the delicate aromatics to burn, add the wine to the pot and simmer for a few minutes until it’s reduced by about half. Add the potatoes in first to avoid splashing, then cover with chicken broth.
Add the sausage and bacon back to the pot, season with salt and pepper, and drop in the rosemary. Bring the broth to a boil, then lower the heat to medium low and simmer until potatoes are very soft. For gold potatoes, this will take 15-20 minutes. You can test softness by scooping a potato out of the broth and cutting it with the back of a knife or spoon: If it slices easily, the potatoes are ready.
Serve this easy zuppa Toscana
Whether you are using kale or spinach, add the greens at the end of the cooking process, when almost ready to serve. Stir the chopped kale pieces into the simmering broth to wilt, and simmer for about 2 minutes or until the kale turns bright green and softens. Remove from the heat and stir in a generous amount of heavy cream. If you don’t have heavy cream on hand, use half and half or even a bit of milk.
To serve, grate fresh Parmesan onto the soup and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. This soup stores easily in airtight containers for up to a week, and can be reheated gently on the stove or covered in the microwave. We love serving this soup with crusty sourdough, melty grilled cheese paninis, and creamy Caesar salads for a full meal, whether it is for lunch or a healthy winter dinner.
Creamy, rich, and incredibly hearty, this homemade Zuppa Toscana gives Olive Garden a run for its money!
- 6 slices bacon, chopped into ½-inch pieces
- 1 pound Italian sausage
- 1 shallot, finely chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 cup dry white wine
- 4 medium-sized Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and diced
- 8 cups chicken broth
- ½ tablespoon salt, or to taste
- ½ tablespoon pepper, or to taste
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, or 1 ½ tablespoons dried
- 5 cups roughly chopped kale
- 1 cup heavy whipping cream
- 1 tablespoon red pepper flakes
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for topping
- Heat a large Dutch oven or pot over medium heat. Add the bacon and cook until crispy, then add the sausage and cooked until well browned. Remove the meat from the pot, reserving the bacon fat.
- Add the shallot and garlic and cook until softened, about 2 minutes. Add the wine and scrape any browned bits from the bottom of the pot. Allow to reduce by half, about 5 minutes.
- Add the potatoes to the pot, then stir in the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then add the salt, pepper, rosemary, sausage, and bacon to the boiling broth and turn the heat down to medium low. Boil until potatoes are very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Once potatoes are soft enough to be cut with the back of a knife, add the kale to the soup. Stir constantly until kale is wilted and bright green, about 2 minutes.
- Remove from the heat and add the heavy whipping cream, stirring well to combine.
- Sprinkle on Parmesan and red pepper flakes to serve.