At one time in my life it just did not get any better than Olive Garden Restaurant. I grew up in a small town with very few restaurants so Olive Garden seemed very chic and metropolitan. I remember being in the “big city” with one of my girlfriends when we were about 15 years old. We had been dropped off at the mall to do a little shopping and decided to have lunch at the Olive Garden. We didn’t have credit cards at that age and only had about $14 cash between us, so we ordered the cheapest entrée on the menu so that we could enjoy the endless salad and breadsticks. I know we had just enough money for the bill but probably not enough for the tip. I still feel a little guilty about that!
I have not been to Olive Garden in years but I remember loving their Pasta Fagioli Soup. That is probably why this is one my favorite soup recipes. It is easy to make, filling, healthy, and tasty.
The Perfect Pairing for Pasta Fagioli soup is a parmesan rind. I always have a block of parmesan cheese in my fridge and for a long time I was throwing away the rind after using the good stuff. Now I know they are great things to have around. When you get down to the rind store it in a Ziploc in the freezer and save for soup. It adds depth and great flavor. You are probably paying for the weight of the rind, so you might as well use it. Be sure to avoid dishing it up when ladling the soup into bowls. The last time I made this my dad ate it thinking it was chicken. Sorry dad.
Pasta Fagioli Soup
Adapted by Lindsay at Perfecting the Pairing from Pam S.
· 1 lb ground beef
· 1 onion, chopped
· 1 cup slivered carrot
· 1 cup chopped celery
· 30 oz diced, fire roasted, canned tomatoes, with Italian seasonings, undrained
· 15 oz can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
· 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
· 60 oz beef broth
· 2 tsp Italian seasoning
· 2 tsp dried parsley flakes
· 24 oz jar spaghetti sauce (use your favorite variety)
· Parmesan rind (optional)
· 6 oz small pasta shells
· Hot sauce, to taste
· Salt and pepper, to taste
Sauté the ground beef in a large soup pot until brown and cooked through, drain any excess grease. Add the onion, carrots, and celery to the pot and sauté until they start to soften, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, beans, broth, seasoning, parsley, spaghetti sauce, and parmesan rind. Stir to combine. Bring to a simmer. Add in the dry pasta and allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked through.
Taste for seasoning and adjust with salt, pepper, and hot sauce.