Olive Garden’s Zoupa Toscano is a hearty Italian soup that packs a flavorful punch. With a blend of vegetables like potatoes, kale or spinach, and onion, and flavorful seasonings combined with Italian sausage in a savory broth, it’s sure to satisfy even the most discerning palate. Plus, it pairs perfectly with warm breadsticks for an unforgettable Italian restaurant experience.
Originally in Orlando Florida, and purely as a corporate endeavor, there is a lot that can be critiqued about Olive Garden. In fact, nine years ago one of their own investors went on a rampage. In the great spectator sport of American corporate business, the Starboard Value group wrote a paper with all the things they would change to make the restaurants more profitable. They included the unthinkable; no more unlimited bread sticks. We know how that turned out, feel free to go get your breadsticks to this day.
Lots of people like to poo-poo Olive Garden as not being traditional Italian enough. While they may have a valid point, the food served is tasty and consistent, delivering a good enough value that consumers keep showing up. In other words, it probably will not be the best meal you have ever had, but you will get a good meal with great flavors. Those folks can quibble about labels and ‘traditional foods’, but like wine, the only question is if you, the individual, enjoyed what you were served.
Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana
This dish is not an exception. Italian soups lean toward broth and tomato filled dishes with all kinds of vegetables, beans, and pasta or gnocchi. We love those feel-good flavors. Zuppa Toscana adds a little more fuel to the fire in thinking that they are not a traditional Italian restaurant. So be it. But it is an excellent dish. That comes from it actually being a fairly easy recipe to put together. It is also a quick dish that can be kitchen to table in about 30 minutes if you want.
Part of their success is unlimited soup salad and breadsticks.
What’s not to like? Especially with the Zuppa Toscana.
The star of the show is the Italian sausage, which is why we highly recommend a hot or spicy sausage. With creamy richness, mild potatoes, some green from the kale, the stage is set for a bold flavor component from the sausage. If you do not use a hot sausage, you can always add some red pepper flakes right at the beginning with the taters to get their flavor permeated throughout.
This is not a cream soup in the sense of a thick chowder or stew. The ‘soupy’ part is a mix of chicken broth and heavy cream. The potatoes are cooked in the broth, so some of their starch will add a little texture. If you want to thicken it slightly you can mash a few of the potato pieces down. We love using yellow or red potatoes with the skin on. If you want to use russets, they will do better if peeled before dicing. Use just enough chicken broth to cover the potatoes when cooking.
We do highly recommend finding some tasty soft breadsticks, or even a brown and serve item that will round out the restaurant experience at home. Or if you are feeling it, break out the yeast and knead your way to some soft homemade bread sticks. And of course, shredded parmesan cheese to add a little flavor and texture, and the classic feel of a good-looking meal with it sprinkled on top.
Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana Recipe
- 1 Pound hot Italian sausage
- 2 Medium yellow onions diced
- 2 Tablespoons minced garlic
- 5 Yellow or red potatoes diced
- 2-3 Cups chicken broth
- 1 Cup heavy cream
- 1 Cup chopped kale
- Salt and pepper
- Shredded parmesan for garnish
- In a skillet over medium heat add diced onions and Italian sausage
- Cook until sausage is done drain off excess fat
- Add minced garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes
- In a pot add potato cubes and chicken broth
- Simmer until the potatoes are tender and fully cooked
- Add sausage mix and chopped kale
- Add additional chicken broth if needed
- Leave on medium heat until at a light simmer then turn off the heat
- Add cream, salt and pepper to taste
- Serve garnished with parmesan