Venison Zuppa Toscana Recipe

Although our version of Zuppa Toscana isn’t authentic Italian, it’s still pretty damn good. This recipe is a riff on the family-favorite Tuscan soup from Olive Garden using wild game. It’s hearty, flavorful, and takes less than an hour to make.

This versatile recipe will work with whatever you have in your freezer: venison, hog, bear, or hell, even mountain lion. For the most a flavor, use sweet or hot Italian sausage. If you find yourself in a pinch you can always use plain ground venison and add the seasonings listed below in the notes.

Serving size


Time to make

1 hour


1 lb. hot or sweet Italian venison sausage*
1 head of garlic**
1 small yellow onion, diced
3/4 lb. red potatoes, sliced ¼-inch thick
2 tbsp. venison “bacon bits,” or 2 strips of cooked bacon, chopped (optional)
6 cups blonde stock (turkey, pheasant, or chicken)
1 cup heavy cream
2 cups chopped kale
Parmesan and red pepper flakes to finish
Olive oil

Also works with

Any ground meat

Special equipment

Large pot and oven


  1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Drizzle the head of garlic with a tablespoon of olive oil and wrap in foil. Roast the garlic for 30-45 minutes. When the cloves are soft, slice off the root end and squeeze them out. Roughly chop and set half aside. Reserve the other half for another cooking application or to blend with butter for breadsticks.
  2. While the garlic is roasting, start making the soup. Preheat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the sausage and brown it.
  3. Remove the sausage and set aside. There should be some fat left over in the pot from the sausage. If not, add a drizzle of olive oil. Toss in the diced onion and sauté until soft, about 4 minutes. Add the potatoes and bacon bits then toss to combine.
  4. Return the sausage to the pot, pour in the stock, and scrape up any bits from the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium-low so that the liquids barely simmer. Add the roasted garlic cloves whenever they are ready. Cook the soup for 30 minutes or until the potatoes are tender.
  5. Stir in the heavy cream and chopped kale. Cook another 5-10 minutes. Taste and season with salt, pepper, and a pinch of red pepper flakes if desired.
  6. Serve hot with grated parmesan.

*Substitute with 1 lb. ground venison browned in 2 tbsp. of olive oil. Season with 1 tbsp. kosher salt, 1 tsp. ground fennel, 1 tsp. smoked paprika, and 1 tsp. of white or black pepper.

**Substitute with 2 tbsp. of pre-made roasted garlic cloves from a jar or 1 tbsp. of fresh minced garlic.