Monday, April 19, 2010
One day in my parenting group (a valued group of moms and one dad whom I meet with weekly to discuss parenting issues...and life), I mentioned that I was thinking about trying more crock pot recipes. That afternoon, my friend Jill emailed two of her favorite crock pot recipes. I decided to try this "Copy Cat" recipe for Olive Garden Pasta e Fagiole first. I threw it together this uncharacteristically cool Spring morning and then we all went about our busy day. My mother-in-law is visiting, so she took our daughters on an outing. We all met up for lunch and then I took one kiddo home for a nap and and sent my oldest off with grandma to find some shirts to match last year's shorts. Strangely, most of her shorts survived last summer and still fit, but her shirts are either too short or stained from a summer of Popsicles and mud pies...or both. My husband took the afternoon off so that we enjoy do some kid-free hiking and rock climbing together. It was a good day!
We all returned home at nearly the same time this evening and converged upon this hearty, traditional, Italian soup. Pasta e fagiole. Pasta and beans. The dish is traditionally meatless, however this recipe is "beefed up" with hamburger. From my research I found that this dish was originally a peasant dish, due to cheaply available beans and pasta. Many homemade versions also use leftover homemade marinara. This particular version uses canned spaghetti sauce...but if you've got homemade sauce, good for you!
Here's how it all came together...
First, I browned and drained 2 lbs. of lean ground beef.
Then, I chopped up my veggies and added them to the crock pot: onions, carrots, and celery.
Add the cooked beef to the veggies, then dump in all of the other ingredients. Stir them together and cover and cook on LOW for 7-8 hours.
In the last 30-60 minutes before serving, stir in the pasta. I stirred mine in about an hour prior to serving because I'd rather have my pasta a little too mushy than too chewy. I know, I know...the whole concept of al dente is lost on me. Sorry. Really, I think that this pasta would have been just fine after 30 minutes. It cooked pretty quickly, especially sinced I had turned my crock pot to HIGH.
It looks like this when it's all cooked up. Look at all of that yummy goodness going on!
We dished this up, grated some cheese over the top, and served it with a side of freshly baked Italian bread for sopping. Holy cow, this was good! I was ravenous after an evening of finding a piece of rock to grip and a place for my foot, rather than fall and break my legs(or worse). I stand reminded that climbing (and un-climbing) is much trickier than hiking! This soup definitely hit the spot! It got rave reviews from both my mother-in-law and (surprisingly) my husband, who had questioned my menu choice. "We're just having that soup for dinner?" Mine turned out super thick, definitely more like a stew than a soup. I even ended up thinning it with some tomato juice. I intended to use broth, but I was out. Upon tasting, I'm really glad I used the juice. This was delicious!
Truthfully, I don't remember if I've tried The Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagiole, but my mother-in-law is a big fan...this is her favorite soup on the menu. She deemed this version, "better than Olive Garden." She may have just been being nice, but I was flattered. : )
Olive Garden Pasta E Fagioli Soup in a Crock Pot (Copycat) Recipe
Cook Time: 7¼ hours | 15 min prep Serves: 12 –14 people
2 lbs ground beef
1 onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
2 (28 ounce) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16 ounce) can white kidney beans, drained (I used butter beans because I couldn't find the white kidneys)
32 oz. beef stock
3 teaspoons oregano
2 teaspoons pepper
1 tablespoon parsley
1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
1 (20 ounce) jar spaghetti sauce
8 ounces pasta like macaroni, ditalini, or radiatore
1.Brown beef in a skillet.
2.Drain fat from beef and add to crock pot with everything except pasta.
3.Cook on low 7-8 hours or high 4-5 hours.
4.During last 30 min on high or 1 hour on low, add pasta
Notes: I also added 1-2 cups of tomato sauce to thin this out, and a teaspoon of garlic powder and a couple teaspoons of salt for flavor.
For a printable copy of this recipe, please click here!