Skip to main content

Vegetarian Zuppa Toscana Recipe

I'm from the Land Down Under (i.e., Australia), and I grew up drinking a magical brew called Milo.

Potato & Kale Soup Recipe Like the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

Potato & Kale Soup Recipe Like the Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana

Vegetarian Potato and Kale Soup

This vegetarian potato and kale soup is not only the best soup that I have ever made, but it’s also the best soup I have ever eaten. It’s not only incredibly tasty and satisfying but it’s also very healthy for you as well. If you’ve tried the non-vegetarian version (the one with Italian sausage), I promise that this version is better and that you won’t even notice that it’s meatless. Plus, it’s simple to throw in a handful of sausage if you really need to, but first do yourself a favor and try zuppa Toscana with no meat and judge for yourself.

I live on a sailboat that doesn’t have any refrigeration so I spend a lot of time coming up with new recipes to make use of whatever I have left in the galley before it goes bad. One afternoon, I found myself with a few potatoes and some kale, along with some shallots and bell peppers. I had to admit that I was not immediately inspired and stood there looking at these items for some minutes before I had the Eureka! moment.

I remembered that Olive Garden, one of my wife’s favorite restaurants, makes a pretty good traditional zuppa Toscana soup with potatoes and kale. Okay, so that’s what I’d make. On a boat, you cook with what you have, unless you want to take a long kayak ride to shore and a long walk to the grocery store and back. I was still pretty skeptical because I couldn’t really imagine this meal coming together as something really flavorful and satisfying, but I was wrong.


  • Kale
  • Potatoes
  • Bellpepper
  • Shallots
  • Chickpeas
  • Garlic
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Milk
  • Italian Sausage (if you must)
  • Stock

Cooking Instructions

  1. Get a pot that is large enough to hold all of the ingredients.
  2. Clean the potatoes and peel them if you like but I never bother since you will be slicing them pretty thin and the skin will not detract at all from the flavor or texture. Additionally, many studies advise that much of the protein and mineral matter in potatoes exists in the outside layers so peeling them actually reduces their health benefits.
  3. Slice the potatoes into thin discs. The thinner the discs, the quicker they will cook and the more flavor from the other ingredients they will absorb but also the more likely they will be to fall apart so keep this in mind. You want to maintain the integrity of the potato slices as much as possible and keep them whole. You might also want to cut the discs into smaller pieces so that they become ‘bite-sized’ and will fit easily on your spoon and into your mouth.
  4. Put the potato pieces into the pot.
  5. Take your kale and cut the spine or thick, central vein, out of the kale leafs because most people find it too tough to enjoy eating it, no matter how long it is cooked. Discard the spine or put it aside to make vegetable stock at another time.
  6. Chop up the kale or tear it into pieces with your hands, following the same advice to make each piece bite-sized.
  7. Put the kale into the pot along with the potato pieces. Kale is pretty tough stuff and I have never managed to over-boil it so that’s why it goes into the pot first. You could substitute spinach for kale.
  8. Fill the pot with broth, stock or water until all of the ingredients are covered. Using plain water is fine but it dilutes the flavor of the ingredients whereas stock or broth adds to the overall flavor of the dish. I make my own vegetable stock from scraps but you can buy it in either liquid form or as a powder. I find the powdered stuff a little too salty for me but it’s a personal choice and you should use whatever your palate enjoys the most.
  9. Bring the pot to a boil and then reduce to a simmer.
  10. Add garlic to taste. Squish it, smash it, dice it or slice it into super thin slivers, it’s up to you. Add a clove of garlic and then, after about five minutes, taste the dish to see if you want to add more.
  11. If you have used stock then you will probably not have to add salt but might want to add pepper to taste.
  12. Add some diced bell pepper to the pot. I like to roast bell pepper because it brings out the flavors and adds an almost smoky quality to it but you can just sweat it a little in a pan if you prefer. To sweat a bell pepper, first cut out the seeds and the veins. Then throw it into a pan with some hot oil and cook until it softens.
  13. Add chickpeas. If you use canned chickpeas they can go straight into the pot after you drain them. If you are using dried chickpeas then you will need to cook them before adding them. Chickpeas are not traditionally included in this meal but, since I had some left over and because I love them, in they went. Adding chickpeas also adds to the body and texture of the soup, giving it some crunch and transforming it into more of a meal than just an appetizer.
  14. Dice up some shallots and toss them in too.
  15. Cook for about 10-15 minutes, depending upon how big your potato pieces are. Test your potatoes with a fork periodically and when they are becoming soft enough for your fork to stark piercing, add some milk. I have used both 1% milk and unsweetened, canned milk with great success.
  16. When your fork can easily go into the potatoes, your Zuppa Toscana is done and ready to eat. Serve hot and add some grated cheese if you like. You can also add a few dried chili flakes for a little zing. Bon Appetite!

Potato Kale Soup

One-Pot Meal

The other thing that I really like about this meal is its convenience. It’s a one-pot meal, meaning that everything is cooked in the same cooking pot, and that’s a real benefit when you’re preparing a meal in a tiny sailboat galley. One-pot meals are also a great advantage even when you’re cooking at home in a full sized kitchen because it means less dishes to clean up afterwards.

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana Without Meat

Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana Without Meat

How to Make Homemade Vegetable Stock

Vegetable stock can literally be made from any scraps you have in the kitchen. All that stuff you would normally throw in the trash, put it in a pot of water and boil it. It's that simple. When it's boiled into a flavorful liquid, strain it and it's ready for use. You can freeze it and use it whenever you need to.

Making stock can actually be fun. Every time I'm filling the pot with leftover vegetables, it reminds me of the shows I watched as a kid where the mad scientist is concocting some new creation in his laboratory. You might chuckle at that, but it will happen to you too, you just watch and see. You may start to develop and test your own secret recipes.

For me, I have convinced myself that adding bell peppers to a stock results in the best flavors. I also like adding paprika. If I'm not careful, I find myself starting to make vegetable soup when the real goal is to find a good use for the vegetable scraps I would otherwise throw out.

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2012 Dale Anderson


Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on July 30, 2020:

Peggy thank YOU for reminding me about this soup. it's one that both me and my wife love a lot so I think I'll make it for this weekend.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on July 29, 2020:

During the lockdown, people are undoubtedly doing more cooking at home. One-pot meals make for easy cleanup. Thanks again for sharing this delicious sounding recipe with us.

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on March 05, 2020:

Scroll to Continue

That's actually good to know because my wife uses almond milk in her coffee, etc. so I think we will try that for this soup. Thanks for sharing!

Rosana on March 04, 2020:

Hello, I use almond milk can't have milk, with veggie broth, Organic Cannali beans, frozen chopped kale, onion, fresh garlic, small red potatoes, it thickens up. Taste great!

Devika Primic on November 30, 2019:

I rated 5 stars because I like this recipe and it sounds a great idea for a treat.

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on October 09, 2019:

Yves I admit that the sound of almond milk turns me off BUT I admit that I have never even tried it.

Yves on October 08, 2019:

Hmmm. I was hoping to NOT be the guinea time will tell whether I am brave enough to try....Lol.

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on October 08, 2019:

Yves funny that you should ask that question because my wife is also an almond milk drinker and she keeps asking me to try it in this recipe!

Yves on September 30, 2019:

This soup looks mouthwatering. Furthermore, I like one-pot dishes. I use my crock pot for almost everything, except when broiling steaks or baking salmon. (That is not to say you used a crock pot for this recipe.)

And I've been in a rut, cooking-wise. I think this meal might be just the ticket. Yippie!! I wonder if almond milk would work, though? I rarely buy regular milk. What do you think?

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on September 12, 2019:

Peggy I have to say that adding different kinds of meat to this soup can be a very tasty experience. I myself have tried salami, ham, even roast beef. I'm working up to trying chorizo but am a little nervous about how that might taste.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on August 28, 2019:

Hi Dale,

I think that I will just email this recipe to my niece. She may wish to make it before she comes here for another visit. Thanks again for writing about it. My husband would probably prefer some sausage in it.

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on May 03, 2019:

Peggy I hope you like this soup because I just came seem to get enough of it! It's absurdly simple to make for the amount of taste that you get out of it.

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on May 01, 2019:

This soup recipe of yours sounds delicious. I am going to Pin this so that the next time my niece who is a vegetarian comes for a visit, I'll have this recipe easily accessible. Sounds good enough for meat eaters as well. I love making big pots of homemade soup and usually have smaller containers of it in the freezer for an easy meal.

AJ on June 20, 2017:

No mention for quantities which would be appreciated

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on July 15, 2014:

Try it, it's delicious! I haven't read that. Is it good?

Elisabeth Ellis from Nashville, TN. on July 15, 2014:

This looks awesome, I went straight to it.

Your bio reminded me of a book I am reading right now.

It's the auto biog. of Neal Peterson. Have you read it?

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on February 17, 2014:

Let me know what she thinks! I love this soup and eat it all the time.

SandraDC on February 16, 2014:

This sounds great. As my daughter is moving more away from meats I bet she will love this. Thank you for sharing!

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on November 22, 2013:

I've actually tried it with chard and it's a great substitute, very tasty.

Vespa Woolf from Peru, South America on November 18, 2013:

This sounds fabulous! Kale is hard to come by in Peru, but I can substitute another green like chard. Can't wait to try this!

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on July 09, 2013:

It tastes great! This soup loses absolutely nothing from not having Italian sausage or some other kind of meat in it. Thanks for the vote!

Indian Chef from New Delhi India on July 09, 2013:

Ver well written recipe votinh it up and 5 stars.

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on June 05, 2013:

I have a couple of chef friends who just talked to the owner of their bar about putting this on the menu so I'm glad you like this idea.

Derdriu on June 04, 2013:

GetitScene, That's a great idea about using kale spines for vegetable stock. Also, I like what pepper does to this wonderfully delicious version of Tuscan soup.

It's helpful the way you explain the point of special things that you do, such as cutting small to enhance flavor and provide bite-sized eating (so discourages naughty shoveling).


Respectfully, and with many thanks, Derdriu

Dale Anderson (author) from The High Seas on December 12, 2012:

You get pretty creative on a boat, especially one as small as mine but I would advise everyone to give this recipe a shot, it's delicious!

Nell Rose from England on December 12, 2012:

Sounds great to me! if you can make it on a boat then I can tackle it in the kitchen! lol!

Related Articles