Zuppa toscana as created by Olive Garden may have nothing to do with Tuscany, but I can understand why it’s an American favorite! Sausage, bacon, potatoes, cream, and a nod to healthy eating with the greens. What’s not to love? Now you can make it yourself any night of the week, and I gave it a little twist by adapting it to make it into Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana.
I’m going to make a confession here. The last time I was at an Olive Garden restaurant it was so long ago that I don’t even remember going! Which means I’ve never had Olive Garden’s Zuppa Toscana from the source. 🙂
I didn’t even know that Zuppa Toscana was an Olive Garden created recipe until I had made it, got thumbs up all around, and the request that I make it again. It wasn’t until I decided to make the soup for the blog that I looked into it and realized that, unlike Pasta e Fagioli – which is an old Italian favorite handed down in families, zuppa toscana is not just popularized by Olive Garden, but a wholly American creation.
Basically, for Americans, Tuscan means vaguely Italian, probably has beans and/or greens, and very tasty. 😉 And I think that describes this soup!
Once I had made the soup a few times, I decided it would be really nice to be able to do all the work and put it together in the morning and then have it ready to eat that evening. This, of course, meant I wanted to pull out the slow cooker! I have a few different slow cooker recipes here, like Slow Cooker Potato Leek Soup and Slow Cooker Chicken Cacciatore, and Zuppa Toscana seemed like a natural recipe for the slow cooker.
It turns out I was right! A little sauteing in the morning and a few adjustments to the quantities made a Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana I was happy to put on the table. And one which my family was happy to eat.
– Happy Slow Cooking, Annemarie
Slow Cooker Zuppa Toscana
- 1 lb Italian sausage
- 4 oz pancetta, chopped
- 1 medium yellow onion, diced
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 cups chicken stock
- 1 1/2 lbs yellow potatoes, cut into 1/4 inch slices
- 5 oz fresh spinach, or kale
- 1/2 cup heavy cream
- salt and pepper, to taste
- Heat a skillet over medium heat. Add the sausage and pancetta. Saute until the sausage and pancetta are browned, about 5 minutes, breaking up the sausage with the edge of the spoon as you stir. Add the onion and salt and continue sauteing for another 5 minutes. Add the garlic and give it 1 minute. Drain out the fat and add the sausage mixture to the slow cooker.
- Add the chicken stock and potatoes and stir to combine. Set the slow cooker on low for 5-6 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.
- Add the spinach and heavy cream to the slow cooker. Give everything a stir and set the slow cooker for 30 minutes on high.
- Taste, adjust the seasonings, and serve.
- This recipe is inspired by Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana.
- For the Italian sausage I like a mix of half sweet and half hot sausage. I have had the soup with all sweet and all hot as well, and it's tasty from no hot all hot sausage. How much hot sausage you add is up to you and how much spice you like.
- Don't feel like using the slow cooker? The recipe cooks pretty quickly on the stovetop and you can have the soup done in about an hour. Just add the spinach once the potatoes are tender and then let everything simmer for 20 minutes or so. Also, increase the chicken broth to 4-5 cups.
- I consider the pancetta to be optional. It does make for a nice flavor, but if you want to reduce the fat or simplify the recipe, you can leave it out.