My son asks for soup for dinner all the time. Like daily. He usually asks for my Loaded Baked Potato Soup with Roasted Garlic that I sometimes serve in bread bowls. And, of course, I make it for him sometimes, but sometimes I want to try new things.
I've been seeing on Pinterest a lot of copycat recipes for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli soup. I've never eaten it, so I was intrigued. Pasta e Fagioli means pasta with beans. It was traditionally a peasant dish in Italy, a simple cheap meal that workers and farmers ate. It also was a meatless meal. Mario Batali and Giada de Laurentiis make their stocks for this soup with pancetta or pork fatback, types of bacon. Olive Garden's version used ground beef. Some versions I saw used tomatoes of some type, some versions didn't.
So into the kitchen I went to create my version of this very hearty soup. I don't really use ground beef a whole lot, simply because it doesn't have that much flavor. It's great for quick tacos and hamburgers, but sometimes I just find it a little boring. So I used Italian sausage for the meat part of my supposed to be meatless soup. I'm a carnivore, what can I say. I like tomato-based soups, so I opted to use the tomatoes. The soup is full of carrots, celery, onion, sausage, two kinds of beans, spinach, and pasta. It cooks up quick and easy. It was so darn tasty, easy, and my son loved it! It was snowing the night I made it, so it was a perfect meal to keep us warm.
PASTA E FAGIOLI
1 lb Italian sausage links, removed from casings
One 14-ounce can navy beans, drained
One 14-ounce can kidney beans, drained
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes (save the can)
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 stalks celery, sliced or chopped
1 onion, chopped
6 C beef stock (not broth)
6 cloves garlic, minced
2 C ditalini pasta (or other mini pasta)
One 5-ounce package fresh spinach
1 T bacon grease
1/4 C chopped Italian parsley
Salt & pepper, to taste
Shaved Parmesan cheese, for garnish
Cook the sausage in the tablespoon of bacon grease, crumbling as you go. Meanwhile, in a dutch oven or large pot, add in the celery, onions, carrots, garlic, canned tomatoes and beef stock. Bring to a boil. As the veggies start getting close to being tender, add in the pasta. Reduce the heat slightly, but make sure it's still bubbling. If your stock seems to be reducing slightly, take that tomato can and fill it with water and add it to the stock. When the pasta is done, stir in the beans, sausage and spinach. Cook until the spinach is wilted. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper if necessary. Remove from heat and garnish with the parsley and shaved Parmesan cheese.