Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli

 I'm going to date myself for a moment;  I remember when the first Olive Garden came to our town, close to 25 years ago!  I had never heard of it, but the food looked amazing on the commercials, so upscale and different than anything our town had to offer.  We went there shortly after opening and I had pasta e fagioli soup for the first time.  The menu described it as Italian chili, I figured how could it be bad and ordered a bowl.  It's been my all time favorite Olive Garden soup ever since.  Every time we go there I look forward to the soup.  The few times I've gotten salad instead of soup, I regret it every time.  Oh sure, the salad IS delicious, but the pasta e fagioli...I love it!  Tomato broth, loaded with beans and pasta tubes, lightly seasoned but so very flavorful.  It's really just so good!  And yet I never tried to make it at home.  Until now!

Knowing that I wanted Olive Garden pasta e fagioli I decided to just search for a recipe online rather than try to recreate it from memory.  Sadly it's been years since I've enjoyed the soup at the restaurant - so a recipe was in order.  Todd Wilbur of Top Secret Recipes usually does a pretty darn good job of imitating the original restaurant recipes.  A quick look through the ingredients list and I knew this was the recipe for me.   It had the veggies that are in the soup and most importantly of all (in this Witches' opinion) he used the correct pasta.  So many recipes out there call for shells or elbows, all fine substitutions but come on, if you're  recreating the recipe use the right pasta for crying out loud!  The recipe is very easy and pantry friendly, I had everything on hand except the V-8.  No problem, a quick trip to the store fixed that and we were on our way to pasta e fagioli heaven!

What can I say?  This soup is every bit as good as the Olive Garden's.  Better, actually, because I know what I put in it.  It's perfect on chilly fall days, paired with traditional breadsticks and salad it makes a great meal.  The entire family loved this soup.  So much that I made a second pot 3 days later for us to eat for lunches.   Pasta e fagioli is a budget friendly, kid friendly, yummy and easy to put together meal that the entire family will enjoy.  I hope you make a pot of it soon!

Pasta e Fagioli
makes 8 generous servings
source:  Olive Garden, Top Secret Recipes
1 lb ground beef
1 small onion diced fine (1 cup)
3 stalks celery chopped (1 cup)
3 carrots grated (1 cup)
3 cloves garlic minced fine
2 14.5 oz cans diced tomatoes with juice
1 15 oz can tomato sauce
12 oz V-8 vegetable juice blend
1 T white wine vinegar
1 can cannolini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1.5 t dried oregano
.5 t dried thyme
1 T  kosher salt OR 1.5 t table salt
2 cans water (I use the tomato sauce and diced tomato cans, that way I rinse out the tomato residue into my soup)
1/2 lb (1/2 box) ditalini pasta (short round tubes)

In a large dutch oven or soup pot brown the beef.  Drain off any excess fat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic.  Sautee about 10 minutes or until the veggies are starting to soften.  Add everything EXCEPT the pasta to the pot.  Stir well, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer and cook for 1 hour, stirring 2-3 times during the cooking process.

Cook pasta according to package directions.  Drain and reserve.

Put about 1/3 c cooked pasta in each bowl and ladle hot soup over top.  Serve with grated cheese if desired.

Nutrition Facts calculated at SparkPeople recipe calculator 8 Servings Amount Per Serving Calories 369.0 Total Fat 12.7 g Saturated Fat 4.8 g Polyunsaturated Fat 0.7 g Monounsaturated Fat 5.2 g Cholesterol 42.5 mg Sodium 599.0 mg Potassium 872.9 mg Total Carbohydrate 45.2 g Dietary Fiber 7.3 g Sugars 6.5 g Protein 19.7 g
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