I used to love the pasta soup at the Olive Garden but over the years my pallet has changed and I no longer like anything there. It seems that everything is heavily lined with salt and it’s basically microwave gourmet. So after some research and trials, I found a recipe that was very similar to theirs. After changing a few things, this is what I have come up with, and it is very good. It lingers somewhere between a stew and a chili type dish, very hearty and certainly good enough for a meal by itself.
For the first part of this recipe you need the following things:
1 pound grass fed or very lean ground beef, at least 90% lean
1/2 tsp all purpose seasoning (something like Lawry’s or goya is good)
1 medium onion diced
1 medium carrot diced
1 stalk celery diced
2 cloves garlic minced
To start, brown the beef and 1/2 tsp. seasoning in a medium to large pot. you want the meat to crumble into small bits, not big chunks. If you are using lean meat you can add your vegetables right into the pot and cook all together. If you are using a quality meat, this will maximize the flavor. If you are using a ground beef that is higher in fat, simply cook it first in a separate pan, drain and add to the vegetables. If you cook the vegetables separately, add 1/4 cup chicken stock just to keep things moist.
Just give the meat and vegetables about 5-7 minutes on medium, just until the meat is crumbled. It does not have to be cooked all the way, it will continue as you add other things. You are now going to add the rest of the ingredients EXCEPT the pasta. So add the following items:
1 cup chicken broth
28 ounce can diced tomatoes
15 ounce can light or dark kidney beans (DO NOT DRAIN)
15 ounce can white beans (DO NOT DRAIN)
14.5 ounce can low sodium tomato juice (V-8 makes a low sodium version)
15 ounce can tomato puree (you can use sauce if you like)
1 tablespoon white vinegar
1 1/2 tsp salt (You can always start with less, depending on the vegetable juice and chicken stock you might not need as much)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
1/2 teaspoon dill
1/2 teaspoon white pepper
1 teaspoon parsley
a dash of red pepper flakes
Bring the soup pot to a simmer, cover and let it continue to simmer on low for about 45 minutes. While that is simmering, cook 1/2 cup ditalini pasta in a separate pot of salted water. Only cook to al dente, drain and put to the side. After your soup has simmered for 45 minutes, add the pasta and serve immediately. Sprinkle with cheese (asiago is the best) and serve.
A few notes:
Don’t forget the pasta. cook that ahead of time and put aside.
I noticed lately that there may be some confusion as food companies slowly shrink the size of everything. If you can only find a 14.5 oz can of beans, it’s ok. It won’t mess up the recipe.
If the pasta is too thick for you, just add chicken stock and give it at least 5 minutes of simmering to marry all the flavors.