Sunday, January 17, 2021

Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

An easy one-pot recipe for creamy potato & sausage soup made with ground Italian sausage, onion, garlic, chopped potatoes, and kale. There's also diced poblano pepper & crushed red pepper flakes, which gives it a spicy kick that's sure to warm you up. Fix this homemade soup any time you need a filling, cozy & super comforting meal. TIP: Serve it with slices of toasted buttered bread so you can dunk them in the flavorful broth. (gluten-free & grain-free)

Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Craving comfort food? Make this soup ASAP. It's like a hug in a bowl. Each spoonful is immensely satisfying, especially when alternated with crunchy buttery bites of toasted bread. Dunked in the creamy & slightly spicy broth, of course.

I've been fixing this potato & sausage soup for over 4 years now. It's my go-to when I need a meal that's super cozy, made with simple ingredients & uber flavorful. 

It's one of those dishes that everyone loves (even young kids - just make the non-spicy version). Dinnertime is quiet, but in a good way, as each person is busy digging into their owns bowls.

I always give myself a generous portion, top it with shredded Parmesan cheese & black pepper (occasionally crumbled cooked bacon, too), and serve it with either buttered toast or cheddar drop biscuits + a cold glass of dry white wine. 

With each mouthful & sip, the stress melts away, little by little. That's my idea of comfort food. 

If you think that sounds amazing, but you're not into sausage, try my easy chicken tortilla soup (with rotisserie chicken & tortilla chips), creamy chicken noodle soup, or skillet chicken pot pie instead. 

Ingredients For Making Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Ingredients For Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Here's what you'll need to make this soup:

  • Cooking Oil: I like to use olive oil since this is an Italian-inspired dish (this is my adapted version of Olive Garden's soup, which is based on a similar soup in Tuscany). 
  • Onion: I prefer yellow or sweet onions here because they're more mellow.
  • Poblano Pepper: This is a mild chile pepper that is less spicy than a jalapeno but spicier than a bell pepper. It's one of my favorite ways to add a bit of heat to a soup or chili and it has a wonderful flavor. If you can't find it, substitute one large jalapeno instead or omit it entirely. Shishito peppers may work, too, but I'm not sure about the flavor, as I haven't tested it yet.
  • Dried Fennel Seed: This is a KEY ingredient for making the broth taste AMAZING. Fennel seed a signature seasoning in Italian sausage, but many brands don't add much to their sausage, so I prefer to include extra to bump up the flavor in this soup. Buy a bottle or small bag and keep it on hand for adding to any recipe that calls for Italian sausage (especially pasta). You'll thank me later!
  • Crushed Red Pepper Flakes: This is the other ingredient that adds heat to the broth. You can add more or less red pepper flakes depending on how spicy you like your soup. This is one of the most used spices in my kitchen. I add it to pretty much anything savory.
  • Ground Italian Sausage: This is the other KEY ingredient. The potatoes & broth soaks up a ton of flavor from the pork. It's so frigging good. I always buy hot Italian sausage, but you can use mild if you prefer. I try to use ground bulk sausage (that's in a flat package like hamburger meat) to keep prep simple, but you can use raw Italian sausage links, just remove the casings first. 
  • Potatoes: I use russet, Yukon gold, or red potatoes, depending on what looks good at the time or is on sale. I like to chop mine into squares around 1/2 inch thick, but you can do a mix of sizes (small & large) if you want the soup a bit thicker. 
  • Chicken Broth: I prefer to use low-sodium (like this brand) so I can add my own salt (typically Maldon sea salt or Celtic sea salt) at the beginning & end. To make the soup even richer, use homemade chicken bone broth
  • Kale: I prefer the texture of Lacinato kale (also called dinosaur kale), so that's what I use. Sometimes I'll substitute baby greens like spinach or a spring mix, but the extra chewiness of matured kale makes the soup better, in my opinion. Other leafy greens like rainbow chard or collard greens work, too. Just adjust the cooking time in the end depending on how chewy you like them. 
  • Heavy Cream: You only need a cup, so buy a small 8 oz container to save yourself money (unless you want to use the rest to make homemade whipped cream). Half & half works in a pinch, but it's sooooo much better with heavy cream. If you're you need to make this dairy-free, substitute full-fat canned coconut milk or coconut cream instead. 

How to Make Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

How to Make Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Here's a rundown of the basic technique. This is VERY easy, which is a good thing.

  1. Saute the onion, poblano, dry seasonings, Italian sausage, and garlic: This helps to soften the vegetables & aromatics, season them, and brown the sausage to extract some of the pork fat, which will flavor the broth + potatoes.
  2. Dump in the Potatoes & Broth: You may need a bit more broth (or water) to fully cover your potatoes, depending on whether you bought them by weight or size. If needed, add a bit more liquid 1/2 cup at a time until they're covered.
  3. Bring to a Boil then Simmer: To save a bit of time, put your lid on immediately so it comes to a boil faster. I don't always remember to do this. When it comes to a boil, reduce to medium-low so it's gently boiling, then replace the lid. If you have more time (or need to run out & do a quick errand), you can put it on low, it'll just take longer for the potatoes to become fork tender.  
  4. Add the Kale & Heavy Cream and Taste For Seasoning: Add the chopped or torn up kale leaves (make sure to remove any tough stems first), stir them into the broth, and let them simmer for a few minutes to wilt slightly (or longer if you prefer them softer). When the greens are done to your liking, turn off the heat and stir in the heavy whipping cream. Taste the broth and add more salt & pepper if needed (I usually add at least another teaspoon of salt). Keep in mind that if you plan to top your soup with Parmesan cheese, that will make it saltier. 

Adding Kale & Heavy Cream to Spicy Zuppa Toscana Soup

Easy Homemade Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Spicy Zuppa Toscana)

Common Questions About Zuppa Toscana Soup (Creamy Potato & Italian Sausage Soup)

Does It Reheat Well? 

Yes! I store the leftovers in the refrigerator (usually in the same 5.5-quart Dutch oven I made it in) and reheat the whole pot the next night (and the night after) on the medium-low setting on my stovetop. The key is to heat it only until it's nice & hot but not boiling. This will help prevent the potatoes from becoming mushy. 

What About Freezing? 

Honestly, I've never tried freezing this soup before because we always eat it all up. But, based on other creamy soups of mine that I've frozen, I think it should work fine as long as you consume it within 1 month. The texture may be a bit mushier from freezing & thawing the potatoes, but it will still taste yummy. 

Can You Make it in a Crock-Pot?

Yes, but you will still need to saute the veggies & meat first on the stovetop. As long as you don't mind the extra step & dishes at the beginning, you can totally pour everything into a crock-pot (with a six-quart insert) and finish it there. If it were me, I'd cook it on high for 3-4 hours (I typically don't have the patience or forethought to do the low setting). My slow cooker takes at least two hours to reach a decent simmer for soups, so it may be done in 3 hours, it just depends on how big you cut your potatoes.

How Can I Make This Low Carb or Keto?

The answer is cauliflower. (Isn't that the answer for anything low-carb these days? LOL.) Try subbing half of the potatoes for chopped cauliflower florets (make sure they're a decent size) and add them in the last 10 minutes of the simmering time so they maintain their shape. If you want to use all cauliflower instead, follow the recipe as normal (you want the poblano, onion, garlic & sausage to cook in the broth and infuse it with flavor) and add the cauliflower florets in the last 10 minutes, cooking them until they are just tender. If you try this swap, please leave a comment and let me know how it goes!

Easy One-Pot Creamy Potato & Sausage Soup (Spicy Zuppa Toscana)

More Cold Weather Recipes You'll Love:

potato and sausage soup, spicy, zuppa toscana, creamy, easy, one pot
Main Dish
Yield: 6 servings
Author: Elaina Newton - The Rising Spoon
Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Spicy Italian Sausage & Potato Soup (Zuppa Toscana)

Prep time: 20 MinCook time: 55 MinTotal time: 1 H & 15 M
An easy one-pot recipe for creamy potato soup made with ground Italian sausage, onion, garlic, chopped potatoes, and kale. There's also poblano peppers & crushed red pepper flakes, which gives it a spicy kick that's sure to warm you up. Pair this hearty soup with crusty buttered bread for a filling & comforting meal any time of the year.


  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large onion (yellow or sweet), peeled & diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced (stems & seeds removed)
  • 1 tablespoon of dried fennel seed (this adds extra Italian sausage flavor)
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
  • 1 lb. of ground Italian sausage (hot or mild)
  • 2 tablespoons of minced garlic (about 4 large cloves)
  • 2.5 lbs of potatoes (about 4 medium potatoes), peeled & chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 7 cups of low-sodium chicken broth or homemade chicken bone broth (or enough to fully cover the potatoes)
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt or kosher salt (plus more added at the end, to taste)
  • 1 teaspoon of cracked black pepper
  • 1 bundle of Lacinato kale (about 5-7 oz), stems removed & leaves torn into small chunks
  • 1 cup of heavy whipping cream
For Serving (optional):
  • Shredded Parmesan cheese
  • Crumbled cooked bacon
  • Crusty bread slices (toasted & buttered), for dunking in the broth


  1. Measure the olive oil into a large pot or Dutch oven (5.5 quarts) set to medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the poblano, fennel seed, crushed red pepper, salt & pepper. Stir and cook for 5 minutes or until the veggies start to soften.
  2. Add the Italian sausage and cook for 5 minutes, breaking the meat into small chunks with a wooden spoon. Stir in the garlic, and cook for 1-2 minutes, making sure it doesn't burn.
  3. Add the potatoes, then pour in the chicken broth. If the potatoes are sticking out the top, add more broth (or water) until they're completely covered by a 1/2 inch of liquid. 
  4. Bring the mixture to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, cover with a lid, and cook for 30 minutes or until all the potatoes are fork-tender.
  5. Remove the lid, stir in the kale leaves and let them simmer for 1-2 minutes or until they're slightly wilted. Turn off the heat, pour in the heavy cream, and stir everything well. Taste the soup and add extra salt & pepper, if necessary.
  6. Ladle into bowls, top with Parmesan cheese and/or crumbled bacon, and serve hot with crusty buttered bread for dunking. 


KID-FRIENDLY VERSION: Use mild Italian sausage and omit the poblano pepper, crushed red pepper & black pepper. You can always add that directly to your bowl of soup! PREP TIME: I wrote this recipe assuming you'd prep everything first, then start cooking the soup. To save time (10-15 minutes), chop the onion first and get that going in the pot, then finish the prep as you continue cooking. DOUBLING: If you're feeding a crowd, this recipe doubles well, just make sure you have a large enough stock-pot (9 quarts) and you give the potatoes extra time to cook through completely.

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Adapted from's Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana

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An easy one-pot recipe for creamy potato & sausage soup made with ground Italian sausage, onion, garlic, chopped potatoes, and kale. There's also diced poblano pepper & crushed red pepper flakes, which gives it a spicy kick that's sure to warm you up. Fix this homemade soup any time you need a filling, cozy & super comforting meal. TIP: Serve it with slices of toasted buttered bread so you can dunk them in the flavorful broth. (gluten-free & grain-free)

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MEDICAL DISCLOSURE: The information included on this website is intended for educational purposes only. It is not intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. None of the opinions expressed here are meant to diagnose or treat any disease or illness. You should always consult your healthcare provider to determine the appropriateness of the information for your own situation or if you have any questions regarding a medical condition or treatment plan.

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