Olive Garden Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli

The cozy allure of a slow-cooked meal, combined with the rich flavors of traditional Italian cuisine, makes Pasta Fagioli a cherished dish. Often celebrated for its hearty ingredients and comforting broth, this recipe takes inspiration from Olive Garden’s beloved version, incorporating a mix of vegetables, beans, and pasta simmered to perfection in a savory tomato-based sauce. This slow cooker approach not only simplifies the cooking process but also enhances the flavors by allowing them to meld together over several hours.

Choosing the Right Ingredients

Ground Beef: 1 pound, lean, browned and drained to keep it healthier.

Vegetables: 1 cup each of chopped onions and carrots, and ½ cup chopped celery for a mirepoix base.

Tomatoes: 1 can (about 14 to 15 ounces), diced, with juices to enrich the sauce.

Beans: 1 can each of kidney beans and white beans (about 14 to 15 ounces each), rinsed and drained for texture and protein.

Broth: 4 cups of beef broth, providing a rich base.

Marinara Sauce: 1 jar (24 to 26 ounces) of tomato-basil marinara or pasta sauce, adding depth and flavor.

Seasonings: 1.5 teaspoons of oregano and 0.75 teaspoon of hot pepper sauce to spice things up, with 0.5 teaspoon each of salt and black pepper for basic seasoning.

Pasta: 1.25 cups of dry pasta like fusilli or shells, to be cooked separately and added last to maintain texture.

Garnishes: Fresh parsley and grated Parmesan cheese for topping.

Preparation Tips

Cooking the Meat: Begin by browning the ground beef in a skillet to develop flavor and ensure it’s fully cooked before adding it to the slow cooker.

Layering Ingredients: Add the cooked meat, chopped vegetables, beans, tomatoes, broth, and sauce to the slow cooker. This layering ensures that everything cooks evenly and the flavors distribute throughout the dish.

Seasoning Adjustments: Incorporate the herbs and seasonings early on to infuse the soup with these flavors as it cooks. It’s important to adjust these near the end of cooking based on your taste preferences.

Slow Cooking: Set your slow cooker on low and allow the soup to simmer for 5 to 7 hours. This slow infusion of heat makes the vegetables tender and melds the flavors beautifully.

Adding Pasta: Stir in the pre-cooked pasta just before serving to ensure it retains its texture and doesn’t become overly soft.

Serving Suggestions

Garnish each serving with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and a sprinkle of chopped parsley. These not only add flavor but also enhance the visual appeal of the dish. Serve with crusty bread or a light salad for a complete meal.

Variations and Substitutions

Vegan Version: Omit the ground beef and use vegetable broth. Add more beans or introduce lentils for added protein.

Gluten-Free: Use gluten-free pasta or skip the pasta and add more vegetables like zucchini or squash.

Spice Variations: Adjust the level of heat by increasing or decreasing the amount of hot pepper sauce, or add chili flakes for an extra kick.

This slow cooker adaptation of Olive Garden’s Pasta Fagioli is perfect for anyone looking to capture the essence of a restaurant-style meal with the ease of home cooking. The dish is not only filling and nutritious but also customizable to suit various dietary needs and flavor preferences. Enjoy crafting this comforting bowl of soup that promises to warm up any mealtime.

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