How to Make Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

by Lamar Grey

Start to Finish: 1 hour

Servings: 6

Difficulty Level: Intermediate

Olive Garden's zuppa Toscana soup is a creamy blend of sausage, potatoes and kale. The restaurant chain does not publish most of its menu recipes. But other recipes that it does make available to the public suggest that sweet Italian sausage, beef broth and heavy cream are three of the keys to successfully replicating zuppa Toscana.

Ingredients

  • 3 bacon slices, uncooked
  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • Red pepper flakes, to taste
  • 6 cups beef broth
  • 1 pound russet potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 2 cups water
  • 2 cups kale
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • Salt, to taste
  • Ground pepper, to taste

Cook Soup on the Stove

Cut uncooked bacon into small pieces that are about 1/2-inch wide.

Place the bacon in a stove-top stock pot or Dutch oven preheated over medium heat. Add sausage, crumbling the meat as you drop it into the pot.

Cook the bacon and sausage until they are cooked through, approximately 15 minutes. Stir periodically so that the meat cooks evenly. Cooked sausage should be brown throughout. The lean meat in bacon should be brownish-red, firm and somewhat crisp.

Pour out excess fat, leaving about 1 to 2 tablespoons of drippings in the pot with the meat.

Add onion, garlic and red pepper flakes. Cook the mixture until the onion is tender and semitranslucent, approximately five minutes.

Tips

  • Use about 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon of red pepper flakes for a mild soup. Use about 1 teaspoon to make spicier soup.

Pour 1 cup of beef broth into the pot. Stir the ingredients, scraping the browned meat drippings off the bottom of the pot as you stir.

Add peeled, cubed potatoes to the soup. Pour in the remaining broth and water.

Cover the pot with a lid. Cook the soup at a slow simmer until the potatoes are tender, approximately 20 minutes.

Tear the kale leaves into bite-sized pieces; drop them in the pot. Stir heavy cream into the soup.

Cook the soup on medium-low heat for 10 minutes or until the soup reaches your desired thickness.

Thicken soup by simmering it on medium or medium-high heat to cook off some of the excess liquid. Add extra water or broth to soup that is too thick if you want to thin it.

Season to taste with salt and ground pepper.

Cook Soup in a Slow Cooker

Cook bacon, sausage, onion, garlic and red pepper flakes in a deep skillet or pot on the stove just as you would if you were cooking the all of the soup on the stove. Bacon and sausage brown more effectively -- making them more flavorful -- when you cook them on the stove. Onion and garlic likewise develop better texture and flavor if you precook them.

Stir 1 cup of beef broth into the meat and onion mixture to deglaze the pan. Scrape the browned bits off the bottom of the pan.

Pour the contents of the skillet into a slow cooker.

Add peeled, cubed potatoes, remaining broth and water to the slow cooker.

Cover the slow cooker with its lid. Cook the soup on the low heat setting for eight hours or until the potatoes are fork tender.

Tear kale into bite-sized pieces as you drop them into the slow cooker. Pour cream into the soup, stirring to incorporate it.

Cook the soup on the high heat setting for 20 minutes.

Season to taste with salt and ground pepper.

Substitution, Serving and Storage Tips

  • Substitute half-and-half for heavy cream to prepare a lighter soup. It will be slightly less creamy than soup that contains heavy cream but still flavorful.
  • Thicken soup by simmering it on medium or medium-high heat to cook off some of the excess liquid. Add extra water or broth to soup that is too thick if you want to thin it.
  • Serve zuppa Toscana warm with a crusty piece of bread on the side. Sprinkle a little grated Parmesan or Romano cheese on top of a bowl of soup, if desired.
  • Refrigerate leftover soup that contains pork for up to four days.┬áReheat leftover soup to 160 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure food safety.

About the Author

Lamar Grey has been writing about cooking and food culture since 2010. He has ghostwritten eight cookbooks. Grey entered the culinary industry in 2003 as a prep cook in a full-service restaurant. He subsequently served as a baker and head cook on three award-winning kitchen staffs.