An Olive Garden copycat (but better!)! An Italian-esque soup made with spicy Italian sausages and potato. Lisa’s Zuppa Toscana is rich and one of the most intensely flavoured soups I have ever had.
This recipe is from a reader, Lisa in Portland, Oregon in the US. She makes me laugh with the comments she leaves on my recipes about her hilarious stories to track down ingredients, snippets about her life, family and antics in the kitchen. Her enthusiasm about cooking and trying new recipes and flavour combinations is catching. The love she so clearly has for her family is apparent in all the jokes she makes about the “picky eater” in her family that doesn’t like Nutella and dark chicken meat (as she says – “WHO DOES NOT LIKE NUTELLA??”) and her young grandson who loves “grown up” food.
Even her message when she sent this recipe made me laugh: “(This recipe) is called ZUPPA TOSCANA and there was a note next to it that read…”this is better than Olive Garden!”. Do you have Olive Garden? It is a CHAIN of Italian-esk restaurants. I think their food is MEH and MEH!”
I’ve never been to Olive Garden. But even without going I know this is better. Because this is made from scratch, at home. From a reader whose taste I trust!
The extensive notes she provided in the recipe made me laugh too (as well as being helpful!). “Nagi, the recipe says bacon is optional but I say it is ESSENTIAL” (PS Lisa, I agree!). “Nagi, this recipe recommends 1 cup of Kale chopped to be added same time as cream, but I do not do that. I would not eat, nor my family!! So I leave out!”. (I had to giggle!)
I made 2 batches of this soup, one using the slow cooker and the other on the stove. There was no doubt it would be delicious because I know Lisa is a great cook and we have similar tastes. We love big flavours. This soup is rich and creamy. And SO addictive.
I want this soup on tap.
Thank you Lisa, for this recipe, letting me share it with others and for the humour. 🙂
- 1 lb / 500g Italian sausages (spicy) (Note 1)
- 1/3 cup bacon , diced
- 1 brown onion (large), peeled and diced
- 4 - 6 garlic cloves , minced (I like garlicky, so I use 6)
- 1 lb / 500g potatoes (Note 2), peeled and cut into 1 1/2 cm / 3/5" cubes (2 large or 4 small)
- 4 cups / 32 oz / 1 litre chicken broth / stock
- 2 tbsp flour
- 1 cup cream (not whipped) (Note 3)
- 2 cups kale leaves , torn into bite size pieces (can substitute with spinach, swiss chard / silverbeet)
- Salt and pepper , to taste
- Cayenne pepper , to taste
Remove the sausage from the casings. (Note 4)
Heat a large heavy based pot over high heat. Add the sausage meat into the pan and cook, breaking up the meat into largish chunks, until nicely browned (around 3 minutes). Remove sausage into a bowl.
Add the bacon and fry until browned. Reserve 2 tablespoons for garnish, then transfer the rest into the bowl with the sausage meat.
Turn the stove down to medium high. If the pan is looking dry (depends on fattiness of sausages and bacon), add a bit of oil and return to the stove. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent and garlic is fragrant - around 2 minutes.
Return the sausage meat and bacon into the pot. Add the potatoes and chicken broth / stock. Bring to a simmer then lower stove to low (so it bubbles gently) and cook for at least 1 hour, preferably 1 1/2 hours. Stir occasionally.
Mix together the flour with 2 tbsp of cream in a bowl until a "slurry" forms, then add the rest of the cream and stir until combined.
Stir cream mixture into the soup and let it simmer for a further 15 minutes or until the soup is thickened. Stir through the kale a couple of minutes before the soup is ready to come off the stove.
Add salt, pepper and cayenne pepper to taste.
Remove from stove. Serve, garnished with reserved bacon.
1. This recipe must be made with spicy Italian sausages, the type where you can see white chunks in the sausages rather than being a uniform pink colour (the cheaper, standard sausages). Standard sausages are bulked up with alot of filling whereas Italian sausages are pure meat and also have much stronger flavours. The flavour of the sausages is a key part of the soup flavour.
2. Russet Potatoes (America) or dirt brushed potatoes (Australia) are ideal.
3. The original recipe calls for heavy cream, I used ordinary and found it rich and creamy enough. You can use light cream or evaporated milk for lighter options.
4. The original recipe said to cook the sausages first, then cut lengthwise then slice. The alternative is to slice first, then cook. I chose to remove the mince from the casings so the meat would be nicely browned all over. Because this is made using Italian sausages which are chunky and made with (almost) 100% meat (rather than the standard sausages which are filled out with flour and other ingredients), I found it held together in large chunks rather than crumbling into small pieces. You can use whichever method you prefer!
5. This can also be made in the slow cooker or oven.
Slow Cooker (I also made it this way, I could not tell the difference): Cook sausage, bacon and onion in a fry pan (separately, in that order), transferring each to the slow cooker when done. Deglaze the pan by pouring in 1 cup of chicken broth/stock and simmer for 1 minute, using a wooden spoon to scrape all the brown bits off the bottom of the pan so it mixes in with the liquid. Pour this into the slow cooker, add potato and remaining broth and cook on LOW for 6 hours. Add the cream and cook on LOW for 30 minutes. Stir through Kale and let it sit for 5 minutes (so the kale softens). Season then serve.
Oven (this is Lisa's way): Either following the recipe directions, using an oven proof pot or casserole dish (with a lid) and instead of simmering on the stove, cook in the oven at 310F/150C for 4 hours. Or follow the Slow Cooker instructions above and cook the sausage, bacon and onion in a fry pan and pour into a casserole dish or ovenproof pot. Add the cream and cook in the oven for 30 minutes. Stir through Kale and let it sit for 5 minutes (so the kale softens). Season then serve.
5. Nutrition assumes 4 servings. See below for a lighter option.
Most of the calories is attributable to the Italian sausages. This is the nutrition assuming you use Lean Italian Sausages.