Have you ever heard of Zuppa Toscana soup? It's a super popular potato and sausage soup served at Olive Garden. People go bonkers for it, and because of this obsession, there are tons of copycat recipes floating around the interwebz. Chances are you've tried it or (at the very least) seen it.
Even though I'd never had the restaurant version, I started craving it like mad a little over a month ago. I blame it on the huge bowls of piping hot potato soup that kept appearing in my Pinterest feed! That and I was really intrigued by the idea of a creamy soup getting most of its flavor from spicy Italian sausage.
As I explained recently in my homemade creamy chicken noodle soup post, I went into I'm-cold-please-give-me-all-the-comfort-foods mode in early December and I asked my real life friends on Facebook if they had any favorite ways to fix Zuppa Toscana soup. They gave me some really helpful responses (thank you Jamie), then I ran to the store to grab the rest of the ingredients.
I fixed the soup later that night and it turned out ahhhh-mazing. Creamy, savory, and totally comforting. We ate the leftovers for dinner the next night, and then two days later I fixed it AGAIN!
After making Zuppa Toscana several times this past month (frankly...I'm obsessed with it right now), I've tweaked the soup a few times to make it taste even better than the original "copycat" recipe and give it an extra kick of spice.
An Even Better Zuppa Toscana Soup
The version that I'm sharing with you today is cooked longer so the potatoes thicken up the soup (no flour/roux necessary), uses baby spinach instead of kale (personal preference and takes less time to wilt), and has fresh poblano pepper and dried fennel added to kick up the heat + flavor.
Why the extra spices + pepper? Well, Zuppa Toscana is one of those recipes where the flavor of the whole dish rests on the quality of a few components (specifically hot Italian sausage in this case).
I've noticed over the years that NOT all ground Italian sausage brands are seasoned equally! Some of them have tons of herbs and crushed red pepper and others have barely any (so disappointing).
Adding the extra fennel + poblano pepper ensures your soup will have enough classic Italian sausage flavor and a slight background of spiciness. If your sausage already has plenty of seasonings, you can either skip the add-ins or include them for extra oomph (this is what I'd do).
I honestly think these little changes really elevate the soup from "mmm, delicious to "oh my gosh, this is amazing". Of course, there's plenty of room for flexibility, so you're welcome to tweak it to make your belly happy, too. :)
Still wondering if you should make Zuppa Toscana?
If you're looking for an easy recipe that...
- packs a ton of flavor
- uses simple, frugal ingredients (like potato, onion & sausage)
- is super duper comforting and satisfying
...then this soup is PERFECT for you!
Honestly, Zuppa Toscana is so good that it's probably ruined regular baked potato soup for me. (Although I'll still make it when I have leftover ham on hand.)
But, I'm okay with that.
It just means that whenever I'm craving warm comfort food I'll have to fix a batch (thankfully it's easy), wrap myself in a cozy blanket, and alternate between eating big spoonfuls of chunky potato + Italian sausage and dunking a toasty buttery slice of bread into the bowl.
Adapted from Food.com's Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana
Notes & Tips
- If you are short on time, you can cook the potatoes in as little as 30 minutes (basically until they're very soft); however, I think it's so worth it to cook it for an extra 45 minutes to give it more flavor and thicken it up. It's up to you, though!
- The original Olive Garden soup uses kale, but I prefer baby spinach because it requires less time to wilt and no chopping. Keep in mind that if you use regular kale instead of a baby green, it'll take a bit longer (10-15 minutes) to wilt and become less chewy.
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