January 9, 2024

Zuppa Toscana

A twist on the classic Zuppa Toscana, dare I say a better version.

Chances are you know and LOVE this soup, but also, chances are you’ve never had it like this. This Zuppa Toscana leans on the familiar flavors and ingredients you love in the original but is made even better. (I can confidently say this is better than any Olive Garden copycat.) It is creamy without being heavy, hearty and filling, and the PERFECT soup for these colder months. A great recipe to make for the family and done in under an hour.

*This post is sponsored by Roland Foods https://rolandfoods.com/, as always, all thoughts and opinions are my own. Thank you for your support!

bowl of zuppa toscana with couscous

WHAT IS ZUPPA TOSCANA?

Directly translating to ‘Tuscan Soup,’ this Italian soup is wholesome, filling, and absolute comfort in a bowl. While I would love to call this an Italian classic, if you trace it back to Italy, this soup is actually called ‘minestra di pane’ and is somewhat different from what you may be used to. Perhaps you know this soup because of Olive Garden, and trust me, you aren’t alone. It wasn’t until I had it outside of the Italian establishment (where everyone is family, with more cheese) that I realized this soup can be better. Traditionally, Zuppa Toscana is a cream-based soup that has sausage, vegetables such as kale and potatoes, beans, and, on occasion, bacon. It’s hearty, smoky, a little spicy, and an absolute treat during the Winter. While the original is delicious, you know I don’t stick to tradition.

This version of the Italian soup takes the dish to the next level by infusing the broth with Parmesan and swapping potatoes for chewy couscous. Why? I don’t love potatoes in soup. For starters, there is a small window in which they are perfectly cooked and not a mushy, crumbly mess or too hard. Second, potatoes feel like a filler ingredient, and when has anyone ever felt that couscous was a filler ingredient? Never. If you are like me and fish out the potatoes in soup or purposely eat them first to get rid of them, then this Zuppa Toscana is for you.

bowl of zuppa toscana with couscous

WHAT YOU’LL NEED FOR ZUPPA TOSCANA

  • Sausage – This recipe calls for spicy Italian sausage. If you have absolutely zero tolerance for spice, you can substitute it with sweet Italian sausage; however, the spicy variety adds a lot of flavor. You need about 1 to 1 ¼  lbs of sausage, taken out of the casing. To remove it, run a sharp knife lightly across the casing and slip the loose sausage out. Discard the casing.
  • Kale – Specifically dino kale or other known as lacinato kale. This is different from your traditional curly kale variety. Its deep green hue and deep rippled texture (resembling a dinosaur) easily identify this variety. Dino kale has a great hearty texture, that holds up well to simmering.
  • Israeli Couscous – Hands down, one of my all-time favorite ingredients to cook with is Israeli couscous. You might know it as ‘pearl couscous’ or even ‘Ptitim,’ but it is actually a small, lightly toasted pasta with a fantastic bouncy and chewy texture. For this recipe, I am using Roland Foods Traditional Israeli Couscous, which is mild in flavor and has a great texture after cooking. Roland Foods continues to be my go-to for many of my pantry ingredients because I can trust that quality and flavor are at the forefront. Roland has been importing ingredients from all around the world for 90 years, so whether you are cooking with this Israeli couscous from Israel or Arborio rice from Italy, you can be sure that the ingredients you are using are of the highest quality. Find Roland Foods’ Israeli Couscous on Amazon HERE!
  • Garlic – Fresh only!
  • Onions – Yellow, or sweet onion.
  • Heavy Cream
  • Parmesan Rind – Yes, I am asking you to use what most people consider a scrap. If you aren’t saving your Parmesan rinds, then it is time for you to learn that they are so much more than garbage. While you can’t grate them anymore, these cheesy rinds add tremendous flavor to stews, sauces, and, in this case, soup. If you don’t have one lying around, you can actually buy them at a relatively low price at most supermarkets.
  • Chicken Broth – Pick a good and flavorful chicken broth.
  • Olive Oil

TOOLS NEEDED

Dutch Oven or Soup Pot – This soup makes 4-5 servings so make sure you are accounting for that when choosing your pot. I use a 4.5qt Dutch oven that fits the soup perfectly, do not go any smaller than this, unless you are cutting the recipe in half.

Fine Mesh Strainer – A handheld mesh strainer (affiliate link) is required to strain the sausage from its fat after cooking. While we do keep some of the fat, we don’t need all of it. If you don’t have one there is a substitute, so no worries.

HOW TO MAKE ZUPPA TOSCANA

Brown the Sausage – Place the soup pot on the stove over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil. Remove the sausage from its casing before adding it to the pot. Allow it to brown for 1 minute before starting to break the sausage up with your spoon in a twisting motion. You want to break the sausage up into small pieces because – A. it is easier to eat, and B. to allow for even browning. Once broken up, cook for 2-3 minutes before removing. The sausage will not be completely cooked, but don’t worry; it will have time to finish later.

Leave the fat in the pan; however, strain the sausage by placing it in a handheld mesh strainer over a bowl. While we want to keep the existing fat that is in the pot, we don’t want to use all the sausage fat. If you don’t have a mesh strainer or a colander with small holes, you can place the cooked sausage on a double-lined paper towel to remove excess fat.

Sauté the Base – Reduce the heat to low-medium and add the onion. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional 2-3 minutes until soft and fragrant.

Make it a Soup – Add the chicken broth and Parmesan rind to the pot. Simmer with the lid on for 10 minutes. This is also the time to salt, depending on how salty your broth is will determine how much you add. I typically start with 1/2 tsp (Morton kosher) and go up from there.

Add the Fixins – Add the sausage back to the pot and the couscous. Simmer for 5 minutes before adding the kale, and finally the heavy cream. Simmer for another 3 minutes or until the couscous is soft and tender. Serve with crusty bread.

MAKE AHEAD

This is a fantastic soup to make ahead with a few changes. Follow the instructions as above; however, leave out the couscous. We do this because if you place the soup as it is in the fridge, the couscous will continue to absorb the soup, and you will be left with something that resembles pastina rather than a soup. Instead, make the couscous as per packaging (preferably in chicken broth) on the side and add it to each bowl. If you don’t mind more couscous than broth a day later, then make it as is.

bowl of zuppa toscana with couscous

STORING/REHEATING

You made the soup as is and have leftovers, these leftovers can be stored in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Keep in mind the couscous will continue to absorb the broth and you will be left with a soupy couscous dish rather than soup with couscous. Read above for my make ahead instructions if you are making ahead or know you will have a lot of leftovers. To re-heat, add the soup back to a saucepan over low heat. Heat until warmed throughout.

Too cold outside? Need more soup? Check out the below recipes!

Avogolemono: Greek Lemon Soup
Chicken Tortilla
Creamy Chicken and Wild Rice
Spicy Miso Soup

January 9, 2024

Zuppa Toscana (with spicy sausage and couscous)

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This Zuppa Toscana leans on the familiar flavors and ingredients you love in the original, but even better (with couscous and spicy sausage)
Course Dinner, Lunch, Main Dish, Soup
Cuisine Italian
Keyword Couscous, Lemon Soup, Sausage
Prep Time 7 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
Total Time 37 minutes
Servings 5 people

Ingredients

  • 1 -1 1/4 lb spicy sausage loose or removed from the casing
  • 1 small yellow onion diced
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • 1 Parmesan rind
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1 bunch dino kale 8-10 stems, stems removed and discarded, rough chopped
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • olive oil

Instructions

  • Place the soup pot on the stove over medium heat. Add a drizzle of olive oil and place the sausage, removed from the casing, into the pot. After a minute, break up the sausage into small pieces with a spoon.
  • Cook the sausage for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pot, and placing the sausage in a mesh strainer to remove excess fat.
  • Reduce the heat to low and add in the onion and a heavy pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for another 2-3 minutes until both the garlic and onions are soft and fragrant, but not brown
  • Pour in the broth and add the Parmesan rind. Bring to a simmer, place the lid on the pot and simmer for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes taste the soup and salt to taste. (I add approx. 1 tsp of Morton kosher).
  • Add the sausage back to the pot as well as the couscous. Simmer for 5 minutes
  • Lastly, add the kale and heavy cream. Simmer for an additional 3minutes or until the couscous is soft and tender.

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Recipe Rating




  1. 5 stars
    This soup is everything i needed and more during this cold new england weather!! Cozy, delicious, and i absolutely love the couscous in it!! Will be making it over and over this season.