Cozy soup season is here!

A good soup is like a hug in a bowl. Pho is my version of chicken noodle soup when I'm nursing a cold. And on a blustery winter's day, my coconut curry butternut soup is the definition of comfort.

Recently, I've been reminiscing about a soup from my college days, when I waited tables. The staff at the Italian restaurant I worked at consisted of VCU students, and this soup sustained us after a night of debauchery. The chefs must have known. My friends and I would drag in during the late morning to find a pot simmering on the stove. Hearty, creamy and a little spicy, we'd tear up bread and dip it into the soup, and this meal sustained us through the lunch shift. 

homemade zuppa toscana recipe

Here's the part where you may judge me. The restaurant I speak of is Olive Garden, and the soup is Zuppa Toscana. Turns out this soup is an obsession for many people, who have tried to replicate the recipe. I've sampled a few from the internet, and the below version is pretty solid.

Zuppa Toscana is a hearty, cream-based soup. It's easy to make and features sliced potatoes, crumbled spicy sausage and kale. Like I said, it's a hug in a bowl.

Zuppa Toscana copycat recipe


  • 1 pound spicy breakfast sausage (some like Italian sausage, but I don't love fennel)
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons crushed red pepper flakes (if you could only find mild sausage)
  • 4 slices of bacon, cut up
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 2 tablespoons minced garlic
  • 5 (13.75 ounce) cans chicken broth
  • 6 potatoes, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 bunch of fresh kale, tough stems removed

Recipe instructions

  • If you have a Dutch oven, it's preferable. Otherwise, you can use a pan to pre-cook the ingredients before they go into the pot of soup.


    Cook the spicy sausage (or mild sausage with red pepper flakes) over over medium heat until crumbly, browned, and no longer pink.
  • Drain and set aside.
  • In the same Dutch oven, cook the bacon over medium heat until crisp.
  • Drain, but leave a few tablespoons of bacon drippings with the bacon in the bottom of the Dutch oven, for the upcoming vegetables.
  • Stir in the onions and garlic, and cook until onions are translucent.
  • Pour the chicken broth into the Dutch oven with the garlic and onion mixture.
  • Bring to a boil over high heat.
  • While boiling, add the sliced potatoes until you can prick them with a fork. It will take about 20 minutes until they are tender.
  • Once the potatoes are tender, reduce the heat to medium.
  • Stir in the heavy cream, the bacon and the sausage.
  • Heat through, then toss is the torn pieces of kale into the soup shortly before serving.
This hearty, addictive soup can produce no leftovers. People will keep coming back until it's gone. So light a fire, pull out a weighted blanket and soak up this bowl of comfort. 

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