Enjoy my simple and lighter version of Olive Gardens’s “Zuppa Toscana” at home. This soup has pretty basic ingredients that you may already have in your kitchen. This Zuppa recipe is not complicated whatsoever and would be perfect for the fall season! This soup is a savory one. It has notes of chicken, sweet Italian sausage, and bacon. The half & Half adds some richness. This Zuppa alla Toscana is satisfying because of the abundance of meat and potatoes. If you’re looking for the perfect robust and savory soup for fall, you landed on the right recipe.
I was craving Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana today but didn’t feel like spending money on take-out…nor feel like driving in traffic just to pick up some Zuppa from Olive Garden. So, I decided to make this specific soup all by myself in the comfort of my own home while the girls played and watched The Grinch. One would say it’s too early for Christmas movies, but we love them in my house! Watching these movies made me want to cuddle up by a fire and enjoy a hot bowl of Zuppa.
Why this soup you ask? For one, I had all the ingredients. You might have all the ingredients if you cook a lot at home or you’ll probably have most of the ingredients. Two, I’ve been craving some type of savory and stick-to-your-bones home-made soup. This Zuppa Toscana is thinner than a baked potatoe soup and clam chowder, but still very filling because of the potatoes. It’s also similar to those soups because we will be using half and half to give it that creaminess and richness.
This soup is also made with both sweet Italian sausage and bacon, which makes it very savory. Don’t worry, you will get some veggies in which are your onions and kale. If you do not like Kale, still try this recipe! I don’t like kale all that much but could barely taste it in the soup.
Just to clarify and as a side history note, this recipe and Olive Garden’s recipe is not an authentic Tuscan Zuppa. Our recipes are the Americanized versions. Traditional or classic zuppa is made with zucchini, kale, cannellini beans, celery, carrot, tomato pulp, EVOO (Extra Virgin Olive Oil), powdered chili, Italian sausage, potatoes and rigatino. The traditional version has less calories and is a lighter brothy soup as opposed to the creamy and high calorie Americanized version.
Speaking of lower calories and healthier alternatives, you can definitely add more veggies if needed. You can use fat free half and half or a dairy-free alternative such as almond milk. You can sub the Italian sausage with Jennie O’s Italian Turkey Sausage, ground chicken, or ground beef. You can sub the bacon with turkey bacon or lower sodium bacon.
There are so many ways to modify recipes to meet your caloric needs and preferences! Soups are for the most part very forgiving when it comes to swapping ingredients! Don’t be afraid to experiment with your food.
For example, I used fat-free half and half. It does change the consistency to a less creamy version of Olive Garden’s but it’s still delicious. If you know what Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana looks like, it’s more on the white side when it comes to the color. That is because they use white potatoes. I substituted with Yukon Gold Potatoes because they are my favorite for their sweet and buttery flavor. My soup also has more of a yellow tint because the potatoes are yellow.
If you’re ready to make a soup that will make the whole home smell wonderful and have everyone asking if it’s done yet, stick around and save this recipe!
Now, without further ado, let’s get in to the recipe for this Zuppa Alla Toscana!!!!
Ingredients You will need for Zuppa Toscana:
1. 1 LB of sweet Italian sausage
2. 4 OZ of Diced Bacon
3. 1.5 Cups of Half & Half
4. 2 Cups of Chicken Broth
5. 1.5 Cups of Water
6. 1.5 LBS of Yukon Gold Potatoes
7. 1 Small Onion or 3/4 Cup of diced onion
8. 1.5 Cups of Chopped Kale
9. 1 Pinch of Red pepper flakes
10. 1.5 Teaspoons of Fennel seeds
11. 1 tablespoon of Granulated Sugar
11. Salt & Pepper to taste
12. 1 Tablespoon of Olive oil
13. 2 Garlic Cloves
*******YIELDS 4-6 Servings******
-Dice bacon in to bacon bit sized pieces. Tip: Place the bacon in the freezer for about 10 mins or until it hardens a little. Take it out and start cutting it immediately. It’s easier to cut up this way. You can also use kitchen shears/scissors to cut it up easily!
–Roughly chop your Kale in to small pieces.
–Mince your garlic.
–Quarter your potatoes and slice them as thin as you would like. Tip: Wash your potatoes very well and scrub them to get all the excess particles of dirt. This prevents a gritty or dirt like taste.
– If you bought sausage links, take them out of the casing.
**Cooking Directions for Zuppa Toscana**
1. Heat about a tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick pot to brown the Sweet Italian Sausage. Make sure to take the casing off if you bought sausage links. I had bought the sweet Italian sausage patties last week because they were on sale at ShopRite, so I didn’t have to worry about the casings. You can also buy pre-ground Sweet Italian Sausage with no casing or patty shaped. If you bought links or patties, make sure you crumble the sausage before you put it in the pan. It is harder to ground up the meat when it’s whole in the pan and does not break apart as easily as ground beef, chicken, or turkey would.
Once the meat is browned, place it on a plate with napkins under it or place a strainer over a bowl to get all the grease out. I did the latter as you can see in this picture:
I let the sausage sit in the strainer all the way until it was time to add it to the soup.
We’ll have plenty of grease coming from the bacon, so be sure to drain and pat off any excess fat from the Sweet Italian Sausage.
Here is a picture of all the grease that was strained out:
2 Return the same pot back to the heat and add in your diced bacon. Make sure your heat is no higher than medium-high so you don’t burn your bacon or cook it to quickly, because we will be adding onions in on the next step. Cook the bacon for about 4 mins until slightly crisp. Get rid of half the bacon grease and keep the rest in the pan for the next step.
3. Add the diced onion to that same pot of bacon. Mix it up and let the bacon and onion mingle for about 4 more minutes or until the onions are translucent. If you are unsure of what translucent looks like, your onions will look semi-see through. If you taste a piece of onion, the raw taste should be completely gone. That’s how you know when the onions are ready for the next step.
4. Add minced garlic to the bacon and onions. Keep stirring it until fragrant and do not let the garlic burn! Burnt Garlic has a very distinct taste and can taste very unpleasant and bitter!
5. Add in red pepper flakes, fennel seeds, sugar, water, chicken stock. Once it comes to a boil, continue to Step 6.
6. Add potatoes. Be careful when adding them to the boiling water and don’t just dump a bowl of potatoes in there at the same time. Steaming hot water is not fun at all even as a small droplet! Either drop a handful at a time or use a utensil yo place them in there. Once it comes back to a boil, turn the heat down to low-medium and simmer for 20 minutes with the cover on the pot. I like to set the timer on my IPhone because I’m always running around the house because the kids are pulling me left and right. You can also set the time on most microwaves and stoves. This is a sure way that you don’t let something cook too long or burn.
7. Add the sausage, Kale, and Half & Half. Simmer for another 10 minutes.
8. Now add salt and pepper to taste ensuring that you’re giving it a good stir between tastings. Add a little at a time. You can always add but you can’t take away. I like to wait all the way until the end for this recipe to add salt and pepper, because there is already tons of sodium in the sausage, bacon, and chicken broth.
*Garnishes: Fresh Parsley, Shredded Or Shaved Or Romano Cheese, Fresh Parmesan Cheese, Chives, Or Leftover Bacon Bits.
*Serve with some garlic bread. A baguette or harder bread would be great for dipping in to this soup.
*Since this Zuppa Toscana is very savory, you can lighten the meal up by having a salad with it as well.
*Italian Sausage- Jennie O’s Italian Sausage , Gardein Beef Cumbles (Vegetarian), Or any other lean ground meat.
*Bacon- Turkey Bacon, Prosciutto, Lower Sodium Bacon
*Half & Half- Half heavy cream + half milk, reduced or fat-free half and half, etc. There are also vegan and non-dairy half & Half options as well at most stores.
*Yukon Gold Potatoes- Any potatoes will do. I like the yellow because they are have a slight sweetness and buttery taste.