"Zuppa Toscana" literally translates to "Tuscan soup" in English. For Americans, that phrase might immediately elicit thoughts of the Olive Garden menu and its unlimited soup and salad options. The chain's Zuppa Toscana has become a cult classic, with plenty of diners singing its praises and even developing their own copycat recipes to prepare at home.
But for any diner who believes they're getting an authentic taste of Tuscany in their Olive Garden bowl — think again. There's a distinct difference between traditional Zuppa Toscana and what's available at the chain restaurant. Olive Garden's soup, which is made with Italian sausage, fresh kale, russet potatoes, and a healthy dose of cream, is a far cry from the soups actually available in Italy. Like many of the dishes on Olive Garden's menu, this version of the dish is highly Americanized — and though many find it delicious, you won't see it on Tuscan dinner tables or in restaurants in Italy.
What Is Authentic Zuppa Toscana?
Contrary to what Olive Garden's menu might have you believe, Zuppa Toscana isn't any one soup in particular, but rather a variety of soups that are primarily eaten in the Tuscan region of Italy. These soups span several different varieties and contain a number of ingredients, from light veggie- and bean-based soups to heavy soups thickened with spelt and corn flour. Lacinato kale, or "Tuscan kale," is a fairly popular ingredient in these soups, as it grows easily in the region; kale also shows up in Olive Garden's soup, so at least that part is authentic!
One of the most representative Tuscan soups is perhaps Minestra di Pane, which translates to "bread soup." This soup is made with cannellini beans, tomatoes, cabbage, kale, and a medley of other veggies, as well as slices of day-old bread. The bread is layered inside the soup and then left to rest, allowing the bread to soak in all of the liquid and become soft. (Olive Garden's soup is certainly missing the bread — unless you dip a breadstick in yourself.)
Other Classic Tuscan Soups
There are plenty of soups in the Tuscan region, all bringing unique flavors and styles to the table. One popular soup that hails from Tuscany is Minestrone, an Italian favorite made with various vegetables, a tomato-rich broth, and either beans or pasta (or both). While this soup is vegetable-forward, it's packed with protein and hearty veggies like potatoes and carrots and sticks to your ribs even without all the meat and dairy.
Ribollita, another well-known Tuscan soup, is made in much the same way as Minestra di Pane, with stale bread and various vegetables. This time, the bread is added directly to the pot during the cooking process and is allowed to boil with the soup, thickening it up and adding both starch and flavor. While you can serve it the day it's made, it's said to be even more delicious after sitting overnight in the refrigerator.
So while Olive Garden certainly uses a couple of veggies in their rendition of Zuppa Toscana, the heavy cream and unique recipe make it quite different from traditional Tuscan soups.
Read the original article on Daily Meal.