Cook with CHY :: Olive Garden Copycat - Zuppa Toscana Soup

Growing up my family would frequent our family dinners at Olive Garden. If you’ve ever been, you’d know that with every entree you get your choice of soup or salad. I always opted for soup and I always opted for one specific one: Zuppa Toscana. It was something I always craved and going to Olive Garden often wasn’t too realistic (mostly because there wasn’t one close to our home), so I decided to look up recipes and perfected it over the years.

I don’t cook very many things as well as I cook this soup. I’ve been perfecting this recipe over the last decade and have made it so much that I don’t even need to look at a recipe to make it. My friends constantly ask if I’m making it, and when I do you can bet everyone makes the rounds. In college I’d make a huge pot and send a text to my friend group and everyone would come ready with a bowl. These days I rarely make it as my friends are further away, but whenever I host people over I tend to make this - especially as the weather gets chilly!

Fun fact: I cooked this for T in college - back before we were dating.  We would get together once a week and watch Game of Thrones (we are patiently waiting for the final season) and one week I decided to make this soup. He told me later that he was so impressed with this soup I casually whipped up he thought I was a keeper cause I could cook so well. What a rude awakening it was for him when he found out it was just about the only thing I made 😂. 

As mentioned in my Fall Weekend To-Do List, I wanted to make soup. So I thought what better way than to document my favorite recipe! Also double win since I can also use this as a reference to any friends/family that want it too.

Onto the recipe! The key to making this delicious soup is using one pot for everything. I usually use a medium/large pot, depending how much I want to make.

I N G R E D I E N T S :

- 1 pound of Italian sausage (mild - don’t recommend getting the hot sausage) 

- 1 yellow onion (grab a large one if you enjoy onions!) 

- garlic - I usually use 4-6 cloves. You can adjust this depending on how much you like. I think the more the better.  

- 1 russet potato

- 1 bunch of Kale  

- 1 chicken bouillon cube (I think the soup tastes much better with this compared to chicken stock) 

- heavy whipping cream

- chili flakes (optional)  

P R E P :

- Scrub the potato and leave the skin - do not peel! It helps keep the potato somewhat intact. I’ll go ahead and slice the potato into discs. Usually I don’t like adding too much potato since I find it to get really heavy. If you’re cooking a big pot, you could add 2 potatoes since a lot of people will be digging in. Sometimes the potato pieces can be really big so I’ll cut those in half as well. I usually do this first and set these pieces aside in a bowl of water to help pull out some of the starch. If you’d prefer your soup to be super thick and chunky you can forego this step. I like my soup a little less thick and this helps it not get too mushy too fast. 

- Dice your onions and garlic. You don’t have to be super precise with this but the smaller the better since there’s a lot going on in the soup.  

C O O K :

- Heat up your pot and add a teeny tiny amount of oil. Break up the sausage into tiny bite sized pieces - this is key! I love small bites of everything otherwise you’re just eating big chunks and it’s less enjoyable in my opinion. I usually break up all the pieces and don’t stir during this process. This really helps the pieces brown up which gives your soup a lot more flavor! If you’re opting for an extra kick of spice, sprinkle in some red chili flakes to the sausage now. I’ll usually stir around until the outside of all the sausage starts browning up and you get that nice layer of browned bits at the bottom of your pot. 

- While you’re waiting for the sausage to finish up, get your strainer ready so you can pull the sausage out to drain the oil while you cook your onions and garlic. I usually take a paper towel and fold into quarters to soak up the oil and fat so I can just toss that. Minimal amount of mess!  I usually will just scoop out the meat rather than dump it so there’s less mess and there’s still some oil to help your onion and garlic cook. 

- Toss in your chopped onion and garlic and all the browned bits should pull up from the bottom of the pot. Also, the smell you’ll smell is prob top 10 of my favorite smells - so comforting! If your pot is having trouble pulling up the browned bits, add a splash of water to help it along. You want your onion to be translucent so be patient!  

- Once your onions are translucent, go ahead and add your water! Depending how much you’re making, 6 cups of water should be sufficient. If you’re making a smaller pot, 4 cups should suffice as well.  

- Bring your pot to a medium heat and toss in your sliced potatoes and return the cooked sausage back in. 

- Rinse your kale! If you bought a bunch of kale (rather than a pre-cut bag), cut 1cm off the bottom of the stems and toss. I usually cut the stem off along the leaves because these can be tougher to chew. I usually cut these into 2 inch sections and toss them into the soup now so they soften up by the time you serve. I usually chop up the leaves into bite sized pieces so you don’t burn your mouth shoving a huge leaf in your mouth (#lessonslearned).

- Let your soup keep cooking for an hour (the longer the better). About 30 minutes in, pull out a cup of hot broth and melt your chicken bouillon cube on the side before returning it to the pot. This just makes sure it dissolves and someone doesn’t get a chunk of the cube stuck to a potato / sausage . If you’re making a smaller pot, feel free to use half of a cube instead. Leave the pot back to keep cooking for another 30 minutes.

- Once the full hour has passed, go back and add in the heavy whipping cream. I usually eyeball it and will pour in a ladle of the cream (or less if I’m making a smaller pot). Definitely go in with less first as it’s easier to add in more later. I’d let this sit for at least 15 more minutes before serving. You can also toss in a handful or two of kale so they can start softening up as well. 

L E  F I N !

And that is all! If you want, you can eat this with some breadsticks / bread rolls on the side. But honestly, this is a hearty meal and does well on its own.

I hope you guys enjoyed this mix up of a post! If you make this soup, please send me photos of your final result and let me know how you like it!