I first made this soup 5 years ago. It’s very similar to a minestrone soup in terms of ingredients, but I like this one better as the protein (ground beef in this case though you can use Italian sausage as well) makes it a heartier meal. You can use canned kidney beans for convenience but I prefer cooking my own from scratch. The recipe purports to be a copycat of the Olive Garden soup. I’ve never tasted the original version but this soup is a tasty one and the recipe below makes about 12 cups.
Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli
Half Batch – makes 4 1/2 quarts
1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 lb lean ground beef
6 ounces/ 1 cup onion, small dice
7 ounces/ 1 cup celery, small dice
7 ounces/ 1 cup carrots, small dice
24 ounces canned tomatoes, diced
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
1 cup cooked white kidney beans (or 2 cups red)
44 ounces beef stock (or 2 beef bouillon cubes and 5 cups water)
1/2 tbsp dried oregano
1 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
salt as needed, start with 1/2 tsp
2 1/2 tsp chopped parsley (or 1 tsp dried parsley)
3/4 tsp Tabasco sauce
24 ounces/ 3 cups spaghetti sauce**
4 ounces/ 1/2 cup small shell macaroni (or any other small pasta)
** I used a jar of Classico Fire Roasted Tomato and Garlic spaghetti sauce.
Saute beef in oil, in a large 5 qt dutch oven until the beef starts to brown. Add the onions, carrots, celery, and tomatoes. Simmer for about 10 minutes.
Drain and rinse beans and add to the pot. Also add beef stock, oregano, black pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, and pasta. Taste and add salt as desired (~1 tsp).
Add chopped parsley. Simmer till celery and carrots are tender (about 45 minutes).
NOTE: Make sure to stir all the way to the bottom at least every 7-10 minutes as the ingredients, especially the beef, settle and may stick and burn. If the soup seems too thick before serving, add a bit of water. You may garnish the soup with some grated Parmesan cheese.