Wednesday, February 17, 2010

An Italian-style dinner

It's going to be awhile before Wilson's Olive Garden opens, but there's no reason why you can't enjoy one of the restaurant's signature soups before then.

A simple Internet search of copycat Olive Garden menu items yields a treasure trove of recipes, including many for Pasta E Fagiola. (The Americanized pronunciation of this recipe is pasta fazool.) This hearty Italian vegetable soup features pasta and beans, as its name suggests.

At first thought, I'd never imagine that beans and pasta would go well together. The textures are too similar. But I was wrong. The combination is, in fact, a tasty one, and the textures actually complement each other. But this soup has more going for it than the pasta and beans. It's packed with tomatoes, ground beef, carrots, onion and celery -- all favorite ingredients of mine.

I made this soup recipe in my slow cooker because of time constraints, but it could very easily be cooked on the stove.

This is another easy soup recipe that takes very little time to put together. While the ground beef was browning, I chopped the vegetables and added them to the beef while it cooked to give them a jump start. Then I poured the ingredients into the slow cooker. I was thankful I had a slow cooker liner for this messy recipe!

Beware: If you make the full recipe, you will need a large slow cooker. My 5-quart cooker was brimming with soup by the time everything was added. I really though it was going to overflow, but it didn't!

I don't have a lot of tips for this straight-forward recipe. I do recommend finely chopping the vegetables so they will be tender after cooking, and I drained and rinsed my beans before adding them to the mixture.

But the biggest tip involves the pasta. The original recipe suggests cooking the pasta in the soup in the last 30 minutes of cooking time. Don't do it. The pasta will absorb much of the soup's moisture and lose it's "bite." Also, when you have leftovers (Unless you're entertaining a crowd, you will have leftovers!) you don't have to worry about swollen pasta in your soup.

Instead, cook the pasta separately and stir it into individual soup bowls when you're ready to eat. I chose ditalini (a small tube pasta) and loved the way it looked in the soup. Ditalini's size is also perfect for this soup. Elbows would work well, too.

My family sprinkled Parmesan cheese over the hot soup in our bowls, creating a wonderful, stringy, cheesy treat.

I didn't have time to make bread sticks to go with our soup, but they sure would have made a wonderful addition!

Pasta E Fagiola
  • 2 pounds lean ground beef
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 1/2 cups finely chopped carrots
  • 3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 2 (28 ounce) cans crushed tomatoes, undrained
  • 1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (16 ounce) can white kidney beans or cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (14 ounce) cans reduced fat, reduced sodium beef broth
  • 3 teaspoons dried oregano
  • 2 teaspoons ground black pepper
  • 1 (26 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce (I use Ragu Parmesan and Romano.)
  • 8 ounces pasta (I use ditalini.)
  • Parmesan cheese
Brown beef in a skillet. While beef browns, chop vegetables and add to meat.

Drain fat and rinse.

Add all ingredients, except pasta and Parmesan cheese, to 5-quart slow cooker.

Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 5-6 hours.

When soup is ready, cook pasta and drain. Pour soup into serving bowls and stir in desired amount of pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 12-14.

No comments:

Post a Comment