This easy Zuppa Toscana is made in the crockpot and in my opinion, it tastes even better than Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana! I never had kale growing up, we mostly ate what we could raise, can and freeze in the old order Amish and Mennonite communities. After purchasing a big bag of kale just to test this soup recipe with, I discovered my family loves kale! Especially sauteed with olive oil, salt and pepper, or in this flavorful and comforting Zuppa Toscana. Now I’m going to have to add kale to my list of store bought veggies, just so that we can enjoy this delicious soup more often through the chilly fall and winter months! If you are a fan of slow cooker soups, you may also enjoy my recipes for Slow Cooker Crack Chicken Soup, Slow Cooker Cheeseburger Soup, Amish Golden Stew, Classic Beef Stew, or Hearty Homemade Chili.
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Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana (Olive Garden Copycat)
- Slow cooker (linked below)
- Cutting board (linked below)
- Chef's knife (linked below)
- measuring cups (linked below)
- 1 pound Italian sausage mild or hot *see note
- 1/2 cup diced onion
- 2-3 minced garlic cloves *see substitution below
- 4-5 medium potatoes cubed
- 1 cup sliced mushrooms optional
- 6 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup crumbled, cooked bacon
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- Salt and pepper to taste *see note
- 1 cup heavy cream can add more or less to taste.
- 4 cups chopped kale
- Brown sausage along with onions and garlic (pre-cooking onions and garlic is optional for sweeter taste in the soup). Place browned sausage into the bottom of a 7 quart slow cooker, then top with cubed potatoes, crumbled bacon, mushrooms and Italian seasoning.
- Add chicken broth, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 3-5 hours until the potatoes are softened, then remove the lid and add kale and heavy cream.
- Cover and allow to slow cook for another 20 minutes, or until the kale has wilted. Add additional salt and pepper to taste if needed, then serve and enjoy! *Note additional cooked bacon or bacon bits and grated parmesan can be added as topping.
Equipment needed for this Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana:
- Slow Cooker I like to use my 7 quart crockpot for making this Zuppa Toscana in, my 7 quart crockpot will have the potatoes softened by 3-4 hours on low, so a smaller crockpot (5-6 quart) or bigger potato cubes could be used to slow down the cooking process.
- Cutting board I like to use a cutting board for chopping and dicing the potatoes, onions and mushrooms on.
- Chef’s Knife A large chef’s knife makes chopping and dicing the veggies so much quicker and gives you a more uniform work.
- Measuring cups Measuring cups will be needed to ensure all the ingredients are accurately measured before adding them to this Olive Garden copycat for Zuppa Toscana.
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Ingredients needed for this Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana: Chicken broth, potatoes, diced onions, mushrooms, Italian seasoning, crumbled cooked bacon, garlic cloves, Italian sausage, kale and heavy cream. Salt and pepper not shown.
Can I use regular ground pork sausage instead of ground Italian sausage?
Italian sausage and regular pork sausage have some similarities in that they are both made of ground pork. However, the taste is noticeably different, mainly because Italian sausage is seasoned differently from ground pork sausage with one of it’s main flavors coming from the herb fennel. Honestly, if ground pork sausage is all you have on hand I’d say go for it, but the taste will be slightly different from the original Zuppa Toscana.
Step 1: Brown sausage along with onions and garlic (pre-cooking onions and garlic is optional for sweeter taste in the soup). Place browned sausage into the bottom of a 7 quart slow cooker, then top with cubed potatoes, crumbled bacon, mushrooms and Italian seasoning.
Do I have to cook the onions and garlic before adding to the slow cooker?
No, you do not have to saute the onions and garlic before adding them to the slow cooker along with the cooked sausage and other veggies. I personally prefer to have the garlic added straight to the slow cooker without sauteeing, but like to saute the onions first while cooking the sausage (I’m not a fan of an overly strong onion flavor).
Step 2: Add chicken broth, then season lightly with salt and pepper. Cover and cook on low for 3-5 hours until the potatoes are softened.
Step 2 continued: Remove the lid and add chopped kale and 1 cup heavy cream. Note* more or less heavy cream can be added to your taste.
Why not add kale and heavy cream in the beginning?
Kale is a lot like spinach in that it is more of a fragile vegetable to cook. If added in the beginning along with the veggies and broth, the kale will become mushy and lose its nutty flavor. Heavy cream is definitely better if added later in the slow cooking process as well, simply because it has a tendency to curdle and leave a not so nice texture in this brothy soup.
Why is this soup runny?
This soup is more of a brothy soup than a creamy soup. If you wish to thicken the broth to make it more creamy, you can remove some of the broth from the crockpot and bring it to a boil on the stove top. Add a slurry of cornstarch and water or flour and water and cook until thickened. Return the thickened broth to the soup, adding more broth or more thickening agent to soup as needed until the soup has the consistency you prefer.
Step 3: Cover and allow to slow cook for another 20 minutes, or until the kale has wilted. Add additional salt and pepper if needed, then serve and enjoy! *Note additional cooked bacon or bacon bits and grated parmesan can be added as topping.
Storage for this Olive Garden Copycat, Zuppa Toscana:
If you have any leftovers of this Zuppa Toscana, they can be frozen in an airtight container for several months. This soup also keeps well in the refrigerator for several days and is easy to heat up. In my personal opinion, the soup gets even better after a day or two as the flavors soak into the soup!
It is not a safe practice to reheat foods in the crockpot, because it can take hours for the leftovers to reheat, which can allow bacteria to grow in the process.
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