Zuppa Toscana literally means "soup in the style of Tuscany", a definition that leaves a lot of room for interpretation.
This hearty version is packed with buttery yellow potatoes, Italian sausage, bacon, and kale. It's creamy, delicious, comforting, and completely crave worthy.
Traditional Zuppa Toscana (if there even is such a thing) includes zucchini, cannelloni beans, celery, carrots, and tomatoes in addition to kale, potatoes and pancetta, and is usually served over toasted bread.
This recipe is an Americanized version. Although, honestly, it's a totally different soup, but it's what so many Americans have come to associate with the name.
However, I have actually made this exact recipe IN TUSCANY.
I went to Italy in 2018 to cook for a yoga retreat and this was one of the dishes I served. I literally cooked it in a tiny Tuscan kitchen inside a cottage that was built in 1500's. It was a surreal, incredible experience that I'll never forget. (And one that prepared me for cooking in what would become my own tiny kitchen a few years later.)
The retreat attendees loved this soup and we had some left over and served it to a group of local Italian friends who also gave it rave reviews.
So, while this is not a traditional Italian recipe, I have prepared and served it in Italy, to Americans and Italians, and the consensus was that it was delicious. I'm not sure anything else matters.
Ingredients needed to prepare this recipe
- Extra virgin olive oil. I love the flavor of extra virgin olive oil in this soup, but you can use canola or vegetable oil instead if you prefer.
- Italian Sausage, spicy or sweet.
- Thick cut bacon. Using bacon that's "thick cut" is important here. Some brands of bacon are cut so thin that after it's cooked, it kind of disappears into the soup. You can also use pancetta if you prefer!
- A yellow onion. Yellow onions are my go-to, but any kind of onion is fine to use in this soup.
- Garlic. Use as much or as little garlic as you like.
- Crushed red pepper flakes. If you're using Italian sausage that's quite spicy, you might want to leave this out.
- Ground thyme.
- Granulated sugar. Just one teaspoon of sugar in this soup brightens and intensifies the flavor of the vegetables.
- Salt and pepper.
- Dry white wine. I usually use Sauvignon blanc because it's my favorite white to drink. But Albariño, Pinot Grigio, Soave, or any other kind of dry white wine will be great in here.
- Chicken broth. OR, vegetable broth if you prefer. I almost always use Better than Bouillon.
- Yellow potatoes (Yukon gold). Yellow potatoes work best in this soup because they become rich and creamy when cooked in the broth and hold together well.
- Kale. Cooked kale, potatoes, and sausage are a magical combination.
- Heavy cream. You can substitute half and half or even whole milk for the cream in this soup, but you won't get the same creamy richness that you get from heavy cream.
- Fresh Italian parsley. A handful of fresh herbs stirred into this soup after cooking adds a nice burst of fresh flavor and keeps it from feeling too heavy.
- Shredded parmesan. I love to top bowls of soup with shredded parmesan, but it's 100% optional.
Additions and substitutions
As is the case with pretty much every soup recipe, it is easy to customize Zuppa Toscana however you like. Here are just a few ideas:
- Use only bacon or only sausage. Or, use chopped ham or shredded chicken instead of bacon and sausage.
- Make it vegetarian by leaving out the meat entirely and either leaving out the parmesan cheese or using a different kind of cheese in it's place.
- Make it vegan by leaving out the meat or using vegan sausage and coconut cream instead of heavy cream. Leave out the parmesan cheese or swap it out with your favorite brand of shredded vegan cheese.
- Throw in some additional veggies. Carrots and butternut squash work especially well in here. But also consider adding some zucchini or yellow squash and even radishes or parsnips.
- Use spinach instead of kale. Or collards or mustard greens. Any kind of dark leafy green works well in here.
Step-by-step photos and instructions
Cook Italian sausage in hot oil in a large saucepan until it's cooked through. Use a slotted spoon to remove the sausage from the pan, leaving the oil behind.
Add the bacon and cook it in the oil until it's crisp but still tender. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan.
Pour out all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan and set it back over medium heat. Add the chopped onion and cook until the onion is soft and translucent. Add the chopped garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper to the onions and cook for about another minute longer.
Pour in the white wine and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan. Turn up the heat and let the wine reduce until just a couple of tablespoons of liquid are left in the pan.
Pour in the broth then add the bacon and sausage back into the pan.
Add the chopped potatoes and cook until they are fork tender.
Stir in the chopped kale and let it cook for a minute or two, until it's wilted.
Pour in the cream. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Serve bowls of warm soup with shredded parmesan cheese and chopped fresh Italian parsley if you like. Also, it kind of goes without saying that this is the perfect soup in which to dip thick slices of warm, crusty bread.
More favorite soup recipes:
- Red Lentil Soup with Ham and Aleppo Pepper Oil
- Creamy Chicken Noodle Soup with Garlic and Mushrooms
- Spanish Style Sausage and Lentil Soup
- Beef and Barley Soup with Roasted Mushrooms and Bacon
- Spanish Potato Soup
- White Bean and Kale Soup with Wild Rice
If you give this recipe a try, let me know! Leave a comment, rate it, or take a picture and tag it #alittleandalot on Instagram.
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound Italian Sausage, spicy or sweet
- 1 pound thick cut bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
- 1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 tablespoon minced garlic (4 or 5 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 teaspoon ground thyme
- 1 teaspoon granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- ½ cup dry white wine
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 2 pounds yellow potatoes (Yukon gold), cut into 1-inch pieces
- 3 cups kale, chopped
- ½ - 1 cup cream (to taste)
- 1 cup fresh parsley, chopped
- Shredded parmesan, for serving (optional)
- Heat oil in a large heavy bottom sauce pan or dutch oven set over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage into the hot pan and cook, stirring frequently, until the sausage is cooked through with no pink on the inside of each piece. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sausage from the pan to a plate or bowl.
- Add the pieces of bacon to the hot pan and cook, stirring frequently, until crisp. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon from the pan to the same plate or bowl as the Italian sausage.
- Remove all but 1 tablespoon of fat from the pan. Turn the heat down to medium and add the chopped onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme, sugar, salt, and pepper to the onions and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute longer.
- Add the wine, turn the heat to high, and use a wooden spoon to scrape any bits and pieces from the bottom of the pan. Boil for 3-4 minutes to reduce. Add the chicken broth and bring back to a boil.
- Put the bacon and sausage back into the pan. Add the potatoes and cook until tender, about 10-15 minutes. Add the kale and cook for about 1 minute, until wilted.
- Stir in ½ cup cream. Taste and adjust seasoning. Add up to ½ cup more cream, if desired. Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with shredded parmesan if desired.
This recipe makes quite a bit of soup. Leftovers reheat beautifully and might even be better the second and third day. Store in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
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Serving Size:⅛th of the recipe
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 680Total Fat: 43gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 27gCholesterol: 108mgSodium: 2249mgCarbohydrates: 35gFiber: 4gSugar: 6gProtein: 36g