Spicy Zuppa Toscana (Potato and Sausage) Soup | The Rising Spoon

Sunday, January 15, 2017

Spicy Zuppa Toscana (Potato and Sausage) Soup

An easy recipe for one of the best potato soups on the planet: Zuppa Toscana (a.k.a. creamy potato and sausage soup)! This "copycat" version is spicier and cooked longer than the original Olive Garden soup, which makes it thicker & heartier without relying on flour. Make a batch today and your belly will thank you!
Spicy Zuppa Toscana Soup Recipe

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. 

Spicy Zuppa Toscana (Potato & Sausage) Soup

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. 

Zuppa Toscana (Potato & Sausage) Soup RecipeWhy 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. :)

Zuppa Toscana (Potato & Sausage) Copycat Soup

Still wondering if you should make Zuppa Toscana? 

If you're looking for an easy recipe that... 
  1. packs a ton of flavor
  2. uses simple, frugal ingredients (like potato, onion & sausage)
  3. is super duper comforting and satisfying

...then this soup is PERFECT for you! 

Spicy Zuppa Toscana (Potato & Sausage) Soup

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. 

yield: 4 servingsprint recipe

Spicy Zuppa Toscana Soup

prep time: 15 MINScook time: 1 hour and 20 MINStotal time: 1 hours and 35 mins
An easy recipe for one of the best potato soups on the planet: Zuppa Toscana (a.k.a. creamy potato and sausage soup)! This "copycat" version is spicier and cooked longer than the original Olive Garden soup, which makes it thicker & heartier without relying on flour. Make a batch today and your belly will thank you!


  • 2-3 teaspoons of cooking oil (like this avocado oil or this olive oil)
  • 1 large onion, peeled & diced
  • 2 poblano peppers, diced (use gloves to protect your fingers from the oils)
  • 2-3 teaspoons of dried fennel seed
  • 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper (adjust to your preferred level of spiciness)
  • 1 lb. of ground hot Italian sausage
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 4-5 large potatoes, peeled and chopped (I prefer gold but russet works, too)
  • 4 cups of chicken broth
  • Water (if needed to completely cover potatoes)
  • 5 oz of baby spinach or kale, preferably organic
  • 1 cup of heavy cream
  • Sea salt, to taste (I love THIS salt)
  • Black pepper, to taste
  • Optional garnishes: grated Parmesan cheese & crumbled cooked bacon + crusty bread for serving
Recommended Equipment


  1. Place a stockpot over medium heat, add the cooking oil, and let it warm for a minute. While that's warming, peel and dice the onion, then add that to the pot. Let that cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, dice the poblano pepper (you may want to use disposable gloves here to keep the chile oils off your fingers), discarding the stem + seeds.
  2. Add the poblano to the pot along with the dried fennel seed, crushed red pepper, and salt + pepper (to taste). Cook both veggies for 6-7 minutes (stirring occasionally) to soften and bring out their flavor. Use this time to crush, peel & mince the garlic and wash the potatoes.
  3. After the veggies have softened, add the ground hot Italian sausage and use a cooking utensil to break it into small chunks as it cooks. This should take about 5-7 minutes or until all the pink is gone. While the sausage is cooking, peel and chop the potatoes. I like to do a mixture of half-inch chunks and thin slices, the latter of which dissolves somewhat to thicken up the soup as it cooks.
  4. When the sausage is cooked and the potatoes are peeled, add the minced garlic to the stockpot and cook for 1-2 minutes, stirring frequently (keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't burn). Add the chopped potatoes and pour in the chicken broth. If the potatoes aren't completely covered by the broth, add some water 1/4 cup at a time until they're just covered. Bring the mixture to a simmer, give it a stir, then cover with a lid and cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes. (Note: I've cooked it for 2 hours before, which made the potatoes really break down & thicken the soup - so you're welcome to do the same if you have extra time.)
  5. After cooking 1+ hours, the thinner potatoes will have broken down and thickened the soup somewhat, so you shouldn't need to add any flour or roux. You can, however, mash a few of the potato chunks with a wooden spoon to thicken it up further (if you want). I've done it both ways and prefer not to mash any of the potatoes. This ensures I have enough creamy broth for bread dipping as I'm eating the soup.
  6. Now's the time to finish the soup by stirring in the baby spinach (I buy the pre-washed kind) and letting it wilt, which should only take a few minutes. Reduce the heat to medium-low, pour in the heavy cream, give the soup a stir, let that warm up for a few minutes, and you're ready to go!
  7. Ladle the soup into big bowls, serve with a toasted & buttered piece of crusty bread (or breadstick) and, if desired, garnish the top with crumbled bacon and/or grated Parmesan cheese (both totally optional). If there are any leftovers (I'm serious - it's so good), reheat on the stovetop on low heat, stirring occasionally.
Created using The Recipes Generator
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. 

An easy recipe for one of the best potato soups on the planet: Zuppa Toscana (a.k.a. creamy potato and sausage soup)! This "copycat" version is spicier and cooked longer than the original Olive Garden soup, which makes it thicker & heartier without relying on flour.

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