Zuppa Toscana with Sausage & Kale

Zuppa Toscana with Sausage & Kale

Comfort food at its finest, this popular Tuscan soup hits the spot on a dreary, wet winter night when you’re craving a hearty soup loaded with spicy sausage, diced potato, bacon and lots of greens. Start with a base of the holy trinity (onion, celery, and carrot) sautéed in bacon fat. Then, add crumbled sausage, garlic and plenty of seasonings. Simmer in rich chicken broth and add bright green kale and beans (optional) for a meal that’s guaranteed to put a smile on your face and keep it there! This Zuppa Toscana with Sausage & Kale is a must-try.

What exactly is Zuppa Toscana?

Literally translated, Zuppa Toscana simply means Tuscan Soup. In its most classic form (thank you Marcella Hazan, author of Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking–a must purchase), it consists of the bare minimum: slow-cooked cannellini beans (white kidney beans), garlic, parsley, extra-virgin olive oil and broth.  If you’re a purist and you want to cook it this way, we suggest you use Hazan’s recipe. Add a high-quality cannellini bean, preferably the Marcella beans purchased online from Rancho Gordo (the best quality beans out there).

While we love Hazan’s recipe, we prefer to add other ingredients to heighten the flavor & substance of this Zuppa Toscana with Sausage & Kale Soup. This takes the dish from appetizer category to main dish worthy. Frankly, it’s amazing how far Tuscan Soup has evolved in this country! The restaurant chain, Olive Garden, has what is widely considered the most popular version of this soup; it’s a much heartier one!

No beans in the Olive Garden version, but plenty of bacon, sausage, potatoes substituted for beans, lots of kale, and a cup of heavy cream. Ridiculously good, but considerably heavier than the original version.

How does your recipe compare?

We like to think we’ve come up with the ultimate compromise. A Tuscan soup that is heartier than the original, but not as rich and caloric as Olive Garden’s version.

We’ve reduced the potatoes and included a can of white cannellini beans for texture and flavor (you can omit the potatoes entirely if you like). We love the addition of crumbled Italian sausage and also sauté our mirepoix in bacon to punch up the flavor. Diced tomato and plenty of kale goes into the pot to add color, taste and lots of vitamins and minerals.

Dairy-Free Zuppa Toscana

The Olive Garden version of zuppa tosacana calls for a cup of heavy cream and omits the beans, so if this is the taste you’re aiming for, use these alterations. Incorporating beans, however, stays truer to the origins of this tasty soup. And we find that adding a small amount of diced potato to the beans gives the soup the rich, satisfying taste we’re craving — we didn’t miss the heavy cream at all!

Zuppa Toscana or Tuscan Soup with Sausage and Kale

January 14, 2020
: 10 min
: 40 min
: 50 min
: Easy


  • 1 lb. ground Italian pork sausage, crumbled
  • 4 pieces bacon, cooked & diced
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 1 medium carrot, diced
  • 2 stalks celery, diced
  • Salt & fresh ground pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 14-oz. can white cannellini beans
  • 2 Roma tomatoes, seeded, cored and diced (or 1 cup canned diced tomatoes, drained)
  • 32 oz chicken broth
  • 1/2 bag small rainbow potatoes, halved or one russet potato, diced
  • 1 small parmesan cheese rind (optional, adds flavor)
  • 1 bunch of kale, shredded into thin ribbons
  • 1 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1 tsp. onion powder
  • 1 tsp. ground thyme
  • 1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • Parmesan Cheese for garnishing
  • Step 1 In a large Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat.
  • Step 2 Cook sausage until no longer pink, breaking up into small pieces. Remove from pan and set aside.
  • Step 3 Cook bacon & remove onto plate with sausage. Crumble the reserved bacon for garnishing.
  • Step 4 In pork fat, sauté onion, celery, and carrots for 3-4 minutes or until translucent. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Step 5 Add in the garlic and continue to cook about 2-3 minutes.
  • Step 6 Add the can of white beans.
  • Step 7 Add the Italian sausage back to the pan and mix into the vegetables, then add the tomatoes, if using.
  • Step 8 Slowly pour in the chicken broth and potatoes. If you have a parmesan rind, add it now.
  • Step 9 Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.
  • Step 10 Add in the kale and seasonings. Continue to cook for another 10-15 minutes or until potatoes are tender
  • Step 11 Adjust to taste, adding more salt if needed.
  • Step 12 Add in 1 tbsp. fresh lemon juice or apple cider vinegar and stir
  • Step 13 Remove parmesan rind if used, serve and garnish with crumbled bacon & freshly grated parmesan cheese