What is Zuppa Toscana?
Zuppa Toscana simply means “Tuscan soup” in Italian. It’s traditionally made from kale, zucchini, cannelloni beans, potatoes, celery, carrots, bacon, and more. Honestly, it’s as much a chili as it is a soup. Which means it makes a great meal!
How do you make Zuppa Toscana low carb?
In order to make this low carb, you can see that we need to eliminate a lot of the starchy vegetables like potatoes, carrots, beans. Part of its appeal are those big chunky vegetables though, so we can replace the potatoes with the magical keto vegetable: cauliflower.
Before we jump into this recipe, let’s talk about what’s needed and preparing to make this meal.
Ingredients Shopping and Prep
Spices – This is always a wallet killer when you don’t already have the spices for a dish. Especially when they’re weird stuff that you’ll rarely use. Thankfully this recipe has very few: salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Winning.
Chicken broth – You can buy broth in the bigger containers that have 4 cups in them and of course cans. This recipe calls for 6 cups so I bought a package of 4 Swanson Chicken Broth cans as 4 cans is about 6 cups. There’s also always the question between chicken broth and chicken stock. I always choose broth for keto recipes as it has a bit less carbohydrates.
Heavy cream – You can use milk, half and half, or heavy cream. We’re doing keto. Bring on the fats. I mean we’re not eating bread with this. Let’s enjoy it.
Cauliflower – This recipe calls for 4 cups of chopped cauliflower, which is a small head. I bought two heads because I’m going to make cauliflower rice today too. I hate measuring stuff like this by the cup, but I managed to do it. If you want to weigh it out, there’s 325 grams of cauliflower in a cup, or 1300 total grams. To prepare it, just separate the heads and chop them into big chunks. You’re going to end up with a lot of small bits which add to the creaminess of the base, which the big chunks are satisfying to eat.
Kale – This recipe also calls for 4 cups of Kale. For the love, how do you measure chopped kale by the cup? This is why I like to weigh things. A Cup of Kale is about 67 grams, so 268 grams. In this case, I eyeballed it and just used most of the bunch. I hate wasting food! To prepare it, remove the leaves from the stalks and chop them up. Kale cooks down a lot, so while it seems like a lot, it really won’t turn out that way.
Sausage – This recipe could use more than a lb of sausage, but my store has packaged sausage that isn’t wrapped in links, so I used a pound. If you can only find links, you need to squeeze the meat out. This is one of the opportunities to dial up the spiciness of your recipe and use hot Italian sausage. I used mild and with the pepper flakes, it had a good kick.
Bacon – Three strips of bacon is a tricky one as it’s maybe a 1/4 lb. But it’s bacon. And we’re doing keto. It’ll get used. You can purchase packages of pre-cut pancetta, but that’s pricey. I put three strips of thick cut bacon in this and was amazed that there was a piece of bacon in just about every bite.
Onion – one medium onion chopped up small. Don’t overdo the onion as it’s got some carbs in it. You can unknowingly blow up the carbs if you put too much.
Garlic – You can use fresh or canned garlic. I actually used freeze-dried garlic, which you can buy in the spice or produce section of your grocery store. This is a great option for soups and sauces because it gets easily rehydrated.
Parmesan Cheese – This is to sprinkle on the soup at the table. Growing up I spent a lot of time at an Italian household for dinners, and there was always grated cheese on the table to put on top of pastas and soups. It’s amazing. However, it’s another carb or two and we’re keto here, so I left it off. Still Amazing!
Is Zuppa Toscana Spicy?
That brings us to the spicy question. Is Zuppa Toscana spicy? Yes. It’s supposed to be any way. Traditional Zuppa Toscana typically has chili powder, though this recipe does not. Here we’re using red pepper flakes. I didn’t measure, but guessed at about 1/2 tsp and it definitely has a kick. I wasn’t making this one for the kids, but most of them wouldn’t have liked the spice. So perhaps lower that amount, or switch over to some chili powder, which despite the name simply isn’t very spicy. If you want to spice it up even more, you can use spicy Italian sausage. I used mild.
This makes about 6 servings. This soup stores in the fridge or freezer very well, so you can put single servings or the entire batch into containers or zip locks for freezing. This recipe has some fat in it that will separate because of the bacon and sausage. So be sure to stir it up very well if you’re separating it into multiple servings.
This is a pretty straight forward recipe, and while there are a lot of steps, it’s pretty easy. One thing worth mentioning is the amount of grease you’re going to get from the bacon and sausage. Grease is yummy, but sometimes it can be too much and it’ll always just separate to the surface. It also gets pretty gross when you refrigerate it. I didn’t remove any of the bacon fat while cooking, and because of when the sausage goes in, it’s difficult to remove any of the fat at that point. When it was all done, there was definitely a lot of grease and I did want to get rid of some of it.
Here’s my trick: Quickly lay a paper towel on the surface of the soup and then pick it up. The fat will stick to the paper towel and you can pick it up and throw it away. It’s a good idea to do this next to the sink because it’s messy. I did this with three paper towels until it looked much better. So if yours comes out looking like this, maybe try this technique. But don’t let anyone see you do it because it’s kind of gross. 🙂
Instant Pot Zuppa Toscana Soup Keto/Gluten Free
This variation on a traditional Tuscan Soup is low carb and easy to make
- 3 slices bacon (cut crosswise into squares)
- 1 yellow onion (finely chopped)
- 1 tbsp garlic (minced, jar or fresh)
- 20 ounces italian sausage (hot or mild)
- 4 cups cauliflower (chopped)
- 6 cups chicken broth (This is about 4 cans)
- 1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 1/2 tsp salt (more or less to taste)
- 1/2 tsp pepper (more or less to taste)
- 4 cups kale (chopped)
- 1 cup heavy cream (half and half or milk is ok too)
- 1/2 cup parmesan (grated)
Slice the bacon crosswise into short rectangular shapes. Chop the onion, kale, and cauliflower. Remember to remove the main stem/rib from the kale.
Set the instand pot to sauté and high temperature. Cook the bacon until crisp.
Remove the bacon and perhaps some of the fat (see my note above about the grease content of this recipe). Leave at least a tablespoon of bacon fat to sauté the onions.
Turn the instant pot down to sauté medium temperature (you may need to turn it off and hit saute again). Cook the onions until fragrant and translucent, 2-4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so.
Add the sausage (removed from the casing if you have links) and cook it down, breaking it up into small bits with a spoon.
Add the chicken stock, chopped cauliflower, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes, and cooked bacon. Stir, add the lid (don't forget the pressure valve!) and cook on manual setting high pressure for two minutes.
It will take several minutes to get to pressure and start the countdown. When it's finished, do a quick release of the pressure and remove the lid.
Put the pot back on saute and add the chopped kale. Simmer for 5 minutes or so until the kale is cooked down.
By now, the soup should be simmering. We don't want to boil the cream! Set the pot to a low heat setting. I use slow cook, low temperature which is 180-190 degrees and won't boil. When the temperature comes down, add the cream and stir.
You can eat it immediately or add the lid and let it sit at this low slow cook setting until dinner time. I made this in early afternoon and it was amazing at dinner time. Serve in a bowl as-is or add some grated parmesan cheese. (note that'll add a carb or two!)
This is one of my new favorite keto soup/chili means.
Have you ever had this? Got other suggestions on low-carb soups? Let me know in the comments.