For some reason, I get the feeling it’s a “guilty pleasure” or embarrassing to like Olive Garden. I guess because it’s corporate and not a mom ‘n’ pop restaurant, which I understand (support your local businesses!), but when I get a craving for those breadsticks and salad? Every rational part of my brain goes out the door. And Olive Garden’s pasta fagioli soup? It’s so good. Which brings us to the topic of this blog post.
I’m pregnant. We’ve established that. If you’re just now learning about this exciting fact, you can catch up a little bit here. During the second trimester, I’ve learned that I can’t stay full. It’s impossible. I can eat something, then 10 minutes later something else sounds good. And not just little bites here and there. I want to eat three large pizzas a day (and a lot of salad and grapefruit). It’s a rough life.
This unrelenting inability to stay full led me to try this soup recipe. It’s full of beans and protein, which I was hoping would help me stay fuller longer. And I’m happy to report that it kind of helped! I, uh, did eat the whole pot, but not in one sitting. That’s a feat. Believe me.
1 cup ditalini pasta
1 pound ground Italian sausage
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 carrots, peeled and sliced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 cups chicken broth*
1 can (15 ounces) tomato sauce
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3/4 teaspoon dried thyme
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can (15-ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
*Tip: I like this soup when it’s served thick. If you want it soupier, add another cup of chicken broth or water. If you’re not sure, just wait until step 7 when beans and pasta are added. At that point, if you want thinner soup, just add a cup or two. Let it heat through, then serve.
- Cook pasta according to package instructions, and set aside.
- Heat a large stockpot or Dutch oven over medium heat, and add Italian sausage. Break up into small pieces and cook until browned, about 5 minutes. Drain fat, and transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil in the pot. Add shallot, celery and carrots. Stir and cook until tender, about 3-4 minutes.
- Add garlic, and cook until fragrant, about 1-2 minutes.
- Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, crushed tomatoes, basil, oregano, thyme and Italian sausage until combined. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
- Bring soup to a boil, reduce heat, then simmer, covered, until vegetables are tender, about 15 minutes.
- Add pasta and beans (and extra broth or water if desired—see tip after ingredients), and stir until heated through.
- Serve immediately with grated Parmesan and a slice of Garlic Herb Bread.