Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Zuppa Toscana - Paleo Style

Our family loves Zuppa Toscana.  Ages ago, we enjoyed this soup in the traditional recipe.  But these days I have my own modified recipe that works around all our food issues.  

Let me recap those food issues real quick (or not so quick).  One daughter is highly intolerant to potatoes - and that includes anything related to potatoes, like "enriched" products, potato starch, and anything with added "vitamin B" to name a few.  She also cannot tolerate dairy and grains together at the same meal.  Strange, yes?  But evidently not as uncommon as you might think.  It took us three years of praying, searching, food journaling, and allergy testing to finally identify what was causing her such pain.

My son has full-on food allergies.  He is allergic to... Are you ready for this list?

Wheat, Oat, Barley, Rye, Dairy, Egg, Strawberry, Nuts and Treenuts.  Strawberries give him hives, gluten-containing grains and dairy produce eczema, and nuts yield wheezing and anaphylaxis - generally speaking.  I make sure none of these are in his diet and am careful to avoid any cross contamination.  

As for myself, well I avoid grains, sugar, most dairy and all legumes.  I've learned through trial and error that those ingredients just aren't tolerated well in my body.  Can see why most paleo-style recipes work really well for us?

Back to zuppa.  The protein in my recipe is  Italian pork sausage.  Find one that does not contain any MSG and is light on sugar.  The label should read something like pork, water, sea salt, fennel, pepper, and oregano.  Possibly some sugar as the last ingredient.  If you don't like pork, feel free to subsitute with some grass-fed beef.  You will love it just the same and your soup will be lighter.  Add some fennel when you brown the meat to bring in that sausage flavor.

The broth of my recipe is chicken bone broth - homemade and packed with minerals.  You just can't have enough homemade bone broth in your diet or freezer.

Here is my tour of Zuppa Toscano for the paleo / Whole30 / food allergy family.  Start out with good ingredients.  Not many required are for this simple recipe.  I'm going to make a double batch and freeze half; feel free to halve the ingredients if you are not interested in batch cooking.

  • 4 pounds of Italian Sausage (or grass-fed ground beef)
  • 2 large onions
  • Cauliflower (two heads or two packages of chopped frozen)
  • 2 Qt bone broth (and another 2 qt on hand for the half to be frozen)
  • seasonings: oregano, basil, crushed red pepper, real salt and pepper (details below)

If you are using homemade bone broth that has been frozen, start warming that up while the other ingredients cook.

Go ahead and start browning your meat while you chop the onions.  Add those when the meat is about half-way browned.

When the meat and onions are nearly cooked through, add your seasoning to taste.  Now this can be tricky.  Did you salt your bone broth when you prepared it or are you using seasoned store broth?  Did you make your bone broth from well-seasoned chicken bones?  What about your Italian sausage - was that well seasoned or mildly seasoned?  This is where it pays to know your ingredients.  So please consider your own ingredients and season the zuppa to taste.  

  • 1/2 teaspoon dried Oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried Basil
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper (How spicy do you like it?)
  • 1 Tablespoon dried garlic
  • Salt and Pepper to taste - remember to use a good quality salt.

While the meat finishes and the seasonings are marinating, wash and chop the cauliflower.  If you are using frozen cauliflower, grab it from the freezer.

Give it a rough chop.  It's going to break up nicely while cooking, so no need to be percise.

Once the meat is cooked through and seasoned, I pull half of the meat and onion mixture off to cool in a mixing bowl.  I'm going to reserve this for the freezer.

With half the meat cooling for next week's menu, add in your chopped cauliflower.  Give it a stir and let it start to cook.

Once your cauliflower is warmed nicely, add your broth.

While your cauliflower is warming through and softening up in the soup, go ahead and prep a freezer stash of zuppa.  I add the cooled meat into the bottom of a freezer container and then top it with chopped cauliflower (fresh or frozen).  Seal it with a lid and stash it in the freezer with a 2 quart container of bone broth and a stash of kale.  The next time our family needs a quick meal, this soup can be warmed up and served in less than 20 minutes.

The next step comes with my favorite greens tip.  I love the big bags of organic kale found at Costco.  I buy them two or three bags at a time (because you never know when Costco is going to run out!) and drop them into the deep freeze as soon as I get home.  For soups or smoothies, just open the bag and crumble in the amount you enjoy.  No chopping and no worries about any of those greens spoiling in the bottom of your refrigerator.  Add as much as you like.  Kale is so nutrient dense, so add plenty.

It only takes a minute to warm the kale through and you are ready to serve.  Give a taste to check your seasoning level and then dish out a bowl.  

This is exactly how my son loves his zuppa.  Two of my girls prefer heavy cream drizzled into their bowls, so I keep grass-fed whole cream on hand for them.

I have read that many in the paleosphere enjoy coconut milk in their zuppa, and occasionally my son does, too.  As for me, I like it just fine without.

I hope you enjoy this recipe!  Don't be afraid to tweak your past favorite foods to fit your current food lifestyle.  Please feel free to share what tweaked traditional recipes you love below in the comments!

Linked up with Kimi @ the Nourishing Gourmet: Pennywise Platter.


  1. Yummy!! I'll be buying some kale next time we go to Costco so that we can try this out. Kale will be a new experience for us! This soup looks so good. Thanks for sharing. :) Your kitchen is gorgeous too!

  2. This looks delicious! I can't wait to try it. And can I make a request: future recipes more formatted so those of us newly addicted to Plan To Eat can easily save them. ;)

    1. Thank you! And yes - requests are great and yours is a great idea. I love Plan To Eat as well, and had the same troubles with my own recipes. I will be fixing that in the future.

  3. I'm making this right now...my kids HATE cauliflower (or so they say) so I pureed it. Ha, I win. Can't wait to eat it!

  4. I didn't know you could freeze those bags of Kale!!! Thanks for that tip! :)