Pasta e Fagioli Soup - An Olive Garden copycat


I have to admit I am a bit ambiguous about those American chain restaurants. Especially while living there, I tried to avoid them at the beginning... Later on, I discovered that I really do like some of them. They are not quite as low as the fast food chains but also not quite as fancy as the high end restaurants. They serve comfort food and sometimes really good food :)

One of those chain restaurants I like is Olive Garden. They are famous for their option of unlimited soup and salad. I have tried all the soups and the pasta e fagioli is by far my favorite. The salad is pretty good too though ;)

Pasta e fagioli means pasta and bean soup. I am using three kinds of beans, the red kidney beans and then also small and big white beans (navy and great nothern beans).

This is my spin on the Olive Garden version and I made a few changes. I used ground beef and not Italian sausage, and I added a little bit of zuchhini and bell pepper.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup uncooked ditalini pasta
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 300g ground beef 
  • 3 cloves garlic - minced
  • 1 onion (ca. 1.5 cups) - diced
  • 2 carrots (ca. 1 cup) - diced
  • 2 stalks celery (ca. 1 cup) - diced
  • 1/2 zucchini (ca. 1/2 cup) - diced
  • 1/2 red bell pepper (ca. 1/2 cup) - diced
  • 1 cup tomato sauce
  • 2 cans diced tomatoes
  • 0.5 l vegetable broth
  • 1-2 cups water
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried majoram
  • 1/2 tsp savory
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 can red kidney beans - drained and rinsed
  • 1 can navy beans - drained and rinsed
  • 1/2 can Great Nothern beans - drained and rinsed

Serve with:

  • fresh parsley
  • fresh grated parmesan
  • crusty bread
  • red wine

Preparation:

Prepare the pasta

In a large pot, bring water with some salt to a boil and add the uncooked ditalini pasta. Cook a little less than package instructions, keep them really al dente, as they will still cook a bit in the soup. Drain and set aside.

Prepare the soup

Heat the oil in a large pot, add the ground beef and cook till browned, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and vegetables (onion, carrots, celery, zucchini, bell pepper). Cook and stir occasionally for another 5 minutes till vegetables are a bit tender, but not too soft. 
Fill up with tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, vegetable broth and water. Stir. Season with the dried herbs and salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and let simmer uncovered for about 10-15 minutes till vegetables are soft.
Note: If you do not have each of the dried herbs, you can substitute with 4-5 tsp dried Italien herb mix. 

Finish the soup

Add the cooked pasta and the drained beans. Stir and heat up for about 2 minutes. Adjust the seasioning and the thickness of the soup. If you like it a bit thinner, add some more water. If it is not thick enough, add some sauce thickener (e.g., flour and water or tomato paste).
Sprinkle with fresh parsley and serve with fresh parmesan and along crusty bread and a glass of red wine.






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