Recipe: Olive Garden Soup

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As I’ve mentioned before, I spent my early twenties getting REAL familiar with hotels, airports, highway truck-stop gas stations and casual family dining restaurants as I traveled the country competing (and then coaching) for a collegiate speech and debate team. And for some reason, on these journeys, our little cast of crazy characters LOVED dropping in to a certain family-style Italian restaurant–whether in San Diego, California or Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Don’t ask me why. Maybe the twenty year old mind thinks this is a classy choice? I have no idea. Anywho, being that I was broke as a joke and any waitress was gonna have to pry my allotted per diem cash out of my cold, dead hands, I always tried to cheat the system and order the heartiest thing on the menu at the cheapest price. Hello Pasta E Fagioli soup! Nice to meet ya! Now, I can’t say Olive Garden is a restaurant I’ll ever seek out again now that I’m a little older and wiser (unless it’s for their coffee…which I learned about on this visit) but THAT SOUP. I figured it would be an easy enough hack so I put my hand-me-down 80’s crockpot to good use and got to batch cooking. Now I realize this dish invokes some real personal nostalgia for yours truly but I’m sure, as the weather starts to turn, ANYONE could find it a delicious choice. Enjoy!

What you’ll need…

-1 lb of ground beef (I used Marksbury. If you’re in Central Kentucky do check them out. Beef is a rare purchase for me but when I need it I go with these guys.)

-1/2 a chopped onion

-2 med. carrots cut into coins or half moons.

-2 med. chopped celery stalks

-1 can of diced tomatoes, juices and all

-1 can of red kidney beans, drained

-1 can of navy beans, drained

-2 cups of beef broth

-3 tsp. oregano

-2 tsp. pepper

-3 tsp. basil

-1 tbsp hot sauce

-1 jar of spaghetti sauce (I ended up only using a little over a half a jar because I wanted to use up what I had instead of opening a brand new jar. This is why mine ended up a little less BROTHY. I think it’s fine both ways. 🙂 )

-4 oz. (give or take) of Ditalini pasta (I had this Eden Foods Kamut Ditalini pasta on hand that I’d gotten as a product sample months ago and never used. They sent it before deciding they didn’t care about women’s health and birth control so don’t judge me too hard for using it. It WAS a nice product and definitely a good whole grain pasta.)

and how it all comes together…

-Brown the ground beef in a pan and drain the fat.

-Add the cooked beef and all the other carefully chopped and measured ingredients to your crockpot.

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-Cook on low for 7-9 hours or on high for 4-6.

-Once you’re ready to dish it up, cook your pasta. Drain the pasta and add it in.

-Give everything a nice stir!

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I had a bowl straight away, topped with some shredded Parmesan cheese. Just as I remembered!!! Although I gotta admit, those O.G. breadsticks and salad would have been clutch too. Next time.

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Did I mention you’ll be eating this for awhile? I froze the big container on the right and the littler containers were great work-time meals. Nostalgia batch cooking complete!

What is your favorite dish to batch cook? Do you have any go-to recipes you’ll bust out the crockpot to make as the leaves start to turn? I can’t wait to put mine to good use this season! 

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