Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Copy Cat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli

I cannot believe that it has taken me 2 months to post another entry on this blog. For those who follow me, I am deeply sorry that I have been missing for so long. I know a few of my co-workers have been wondering what happened to my posts. If you remember a couple of months ago, I was complaining about a serious bout of morning sickness that has prevented me from stepping foot in the kitchen. Nowadays, I just haven't had the energy to spend too much time in the kitchen. So most of our meals are take-outs or leftovers from the parentals. Being almost 7 months pregnant can do that to you. When I do cook, I cook some of my go-to Quick and Easy meals. Baking is still something I enjoy doing. So you'll often see me in the kitchen because I'm baking cookies or something. Not experimenting a new recipe.

However, because I'm nearing the end of my pregnancy, I thought about doing some make-ahead meals that I can freeze, which will feed us later once the baby arrives. Learning from my first pregnancy 5 years ago, I didn't have much time to cook our meals with a newborn around. So I thought  how much help it would be for me to have frozen meals that we can just pop in the microwave or oven.

I found a lot of make-ahead meal ideas online and from blogs I frequent. But it was a copy cat recipe from Food.com for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli that caught my eye. A crock pot recipe at that. Before I discovered my love for Olive Garden's Zuppa Toscana, I used to love starting my meal off with their Pasta e Fagioli. This recipe looked so easy and makes a huge batch. So I thought it was perfect to set some aside and freeze. You can also cut this recipe in half if you don't intend to freeze the leftovers. Unless you have an army of people to feed. My daughter and I came home to the house smelling so good. My daughter said "mmmm...it smells like spaghetti!" This is a delicious and hearty soup that is a meal in itself. I served this with some good french bread to sop up some of the soup. So good.....

2 lbs. ground beef or turkey
1 medium onion, chopped
3 medium carrots, chopped
4 stalks celery, chopped
5 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 (28 oz) cans diced tomatoes, undrained
1 (16 oz) can red kidney beans, drained
1 (16 oz) can white kidney beans, drained
3 (10 oz) cans beef broth
3 tsp. dried oregano
2 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. hot sauce (optional)
1 (20 oz) jar of your favorite spaghetti or marinara sauce
salt to taste
8 ounces small pasta (like small macaroni or small shells), cooked
shredded or grated Parmesan cheese for garnish

1) Brown meat in a skillet. Drain.

2) Place cooked meat and all the ingredients, except the pasta, in the crock pot. Season with salt to taste. Cook on low for 7-8 minutes, or on high for 4-6 hours.

3) Place cooked pasta in serving bowls. Top with desired amount of soup and garnish with Parmesan cheese.

*If you plan to freeze the soup, place the soup in a freezable container and freeze. Add the cooked pasta after you have re-heated the soup.