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Our family rarely eats out. After all, with 9 mouths to feed, it’s pretty expensive. Well, last week we ate out at Olive Garden, and while it was amazing to be served wonderful food and have someone else do the dishes, I have to admit… their Zuppa Toscana was not how I remembered.

It turns out I have been making this recipe for so long that I didn’t even realize how much better it was than the real deal! So, save yourself a few dollars and make this delicious soup at home.

I’m also going to include instructions for drool-worthy (and easy) breadsticks but feel free to leave out those ingredients and instructions if they aren’t your thing.

Recipe notes:

  • If you just have plain pork here is an “Italian” seasoning you can add to the pork while you are cooking it for that delicious Italian flavor. Italian seasoning per 2 lbs. pork:
    • 2 tsp. dried parsley
    • 2 tsp. Italian seasoning
    • 1-1/2 tsp. black pepper
    • 1/2 tsp. crushed fennel seed
    • 1/2 tsp. paprika


Prep bin:

  • 2 med. onions
  • 5 cloves garlic
  • 12 cups chicken broth
  • 8 med. russet potatoes


  • 2 lbs. Italian sausage
  • 8 slices bacon

Pull out same day:


  • 1 bunch curly kale leaves (or 1 cup frozen kale leaves)
  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream

For serving:

  • Parmesan cheese


Prep Directions:

  1. Peel and dice the onions. Peel and mince the garlic. Set both aside.
  2. Use kitchen scissors to chop bacon into 1-inch pieces.
  3. In a skillet over medium heat, cook bacon. Cook it past the point of chewy, but before it get overcooked. This is a fine line. Use a slotted spoon to remove bacon and set aside to cool.
  4. Drain most of the bacon grease and then cook the ground sausage, adding the seasonings and a splash of water if using plain sausage. Use a slotted spoon to remove the cooked sausage and set aside on a plate.
  5. To the skillet, add the onion and 1 T butter and saute for 5 min. over medium heat. Add in the garlic and cook 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
  6. To the slow cooker add the sausage, onions and garlic, and broth.
  7. Peel and chop the potatoes into 1-inch cubes. Add to the slow cooker. Mix well.
  8. Cook on “low” setting for 4-5 hours or until potatoes are tender, but not falling apart.
  9. Refrigerate bacon until potatoes are tender.

1 hour before you plan to serve dinner (if making breadsticks):

  1. Time to prep the breadsticks if you will be making them. To a large bowl add: 1 cup warm water, 2 1/2 tsp. yeast, and 2 T sugar. Whisk to dissolve.
  2. Add in 1 tsp. salt and 2 3/4 cup flour. Use a wooden spoon or dough hook to combine.
  3. Dump the dough onto a floured surface. Knead for 2-3 minutes. Lightly flour the bowl and return the dough ball. Cover and let rise in a warm place. Set a timer for 20 min.
  4. When the timer goes off, preheat oven to 400 F, and then roll the ball of dough out onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet into a rectangle.
  5. Take a pizza cutter to cut the rectangle in half length-wise, and then into strips, creating two rows of breadstick.
  6. Cover with a towel and let rise 10 minutes. See last minutes prep directions below for the final steps.

What if my potatoes are done more than 30 min. before eating?

  • If your potatoes are perfectly tender and you plan to serve dinner in the next 20-30 min, go on to the next step!
  • If NOT, switch the slow cooker over to “keep warm” until you are ready to do the final prep.

20 minutes before you are ready to serve dinner:

  1. Add in the cream, bacon, and kale. Stir well. Cover and let cook an additional 20 minutes.
  2. If making breadsticks: Remove the towel. Bake breadsticks at 400 F for about 10 minutes or until they start to brown slightly.
  3. Remove breadsticks from oven. Use a stick of butter and generously rub the tops of all of the breadsticks. Then, sprinkle with garlic salt.
  4. Garnish with parmesan cheese and serve with breadsticks.

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