I fell in love with Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana many many years ago. It is creamy, a little spicy, and deceptively filling. I searched the internet on more than one occasion looking for an at-home recipe I could attempt in my own kitchen. I have tried 5-10 of these copy-cat recipes that have ALMOST hit the spot, but not quite. Many recipes call for too much red pepper, only hot Italian sausage vs. mild or sweet, or too much bacon (yes, such a thing… I know). Some were too spicy, too salty, or too greasy. By testing several recipes, and choosing what I liked about each of them, I have found what I consider the best way to get the perfect balance of everything.
Zuppa Toscana (Instant Pot + Stovetop + Slowcooker)
You will need:
- 1 lb mild or sweet Italian sausage
- 1 bunch of kale (around 2 cups uncooked), torn into bite sized pieces
- 8-10 small potatoes, or 2 large russet potatoes, cut into bite sized pieces, a small dice, quartered, etc. Whatever size you prefer in your soup. Leave the skin on. It tastes so much better that way. Plus, who likes to peel potatoes?!
- 1 onion, chopped
- 2 slices of bacon, chopped
- 2 tbsp garlic, chopped
- 1 tsp red pepper flakes
- 4 cups of chicken broth (*I use chicken bullion a lot. If you do this, make 2 cups with double the bullion amount (like a homemade bullion concentrate) and then prepare 2 cups of water to follow it in the recipe)
- 8oz heavy cream
Set your Instant Pot to saute. Once it is nice and warm, drop in the bacon and saute until it is nice and brown. Once it is brown, take it out and let it drain on a paper towel.
With the bacon grease still in the pan, add the onion and saute for 2-3 minutes until it just starts to soften. After that, go ahead and add in the Italian sausage and break it apart until it is fully ground.
Once the meat is mostly browned, add in the garlic and give it a good stir. The meat will continue to cook during the next few steps. Your kitchen should smell pretty awesome at this point!
After stirring the garlic into the meat, pour in the 4 cups of chicken broth (or the 2 cups of bullion mixture followed by the 2 cups of water) and stir it around while scraping the bottom. You want to get all of the brown bits off of the bottom of the bowl. This is such good flavor!
At this point, go ahead and add the potatoes and kale. Give it a good stir!
Put the lid on your instant pot and cook on high pressure for 5 minutes. Yep. That’s it. Just 5 minutes! Once the time is up, let the pressure come down with a natural release. Once all the pressure is released, take off the lid and add in the cream, bacon, and red pepper flakes. Give it a good stir and let it hang out for 5-10 minutes while you get the table set, bowls ready, cups filled, and sticky kiddo hands washed. We all know how that goes.
You may notice little yellow bubbles, don’t worry. That is just the fat from the sausage, and it is pretty unavoidable unless you completely rinse the sausage after it cooks. It looks this way in the restaurant too. If it bothers you, you can brown the sausage separately and completely rinse and drain it before adding it to the pot.
Go ahead and ladle the soup into bowls. We ate ours with a crusty sourdough baguette. It was delicious, and the whole family enjoyed it.
If you end up making this, please leave me a comment letting me know how it turned out for you. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to ask!
*If you’re making this in a crock pot: you will need to saute the bacon, onions, and sausage in a separate pan. Add to the crock pot along with the chicken broth (or bullion mixture), potatoes, and kale. Cook on low for 6-8 hours. At the end, add in the bacon, cream, and red pepper flakes. Let it sit on low or warm for 5-10 minutes.
*If you’re preparing this in a dutch oven or soup pot: follow the cooking steps just like the Instant Pot. Once you put the lid on your soup pot or dutch oven, it needs to cook at a low simmer for 1.5-2 hours. At the end, add in the bacon, cream, and red pepper flakes. Let it sit on low or warm for 5-10 minutes before serving.
I really hope you enjoy this recipe. It is great for fall and winter, and everyone seems to like it. I love eating together as a family. It warms my heart and makes me feel good as a mother to make delicious food that everyone is eager to eat.
Remember to pray and give thanks for the food God has blessed you and your family with. Eating together at the table is one great way to spend quality time together at the end of a busy day. It’s also a great time to talk about God and why it’s important to keep Him the center of our lives.
As always, thank you for the support. God bless you and yours!
Happy are the people to whom such blessings fall; happy are the people whose God is the Lord.