Olive Garden Fagioli, Round Two

This weekend, I made soup.  Not just any soup, but a very very specific soup.  This was my second, and I feel a much more successful go at making a request from a friend: fagioli.

Except not actually fagioli.  That would be if not exactly easy, then at least general enough to have a big target.  But no: they want Olive Garden’s fagioli.

I know.

When I heard that, my eye literally started twitching, and I couldn’t actually make any noise outside of groans for the first minute after hearing this.  Still, ever game, I looked up the recipe to see what I was working with, and compared it to traditional fagioli, just to see.

It shouldn’t come as much surprise that Olive Garden is not the picture of authenticity.  More like Minestrone ditched the vegetables, beat up Fagioli to rifle through its pockets, then went after hamburger soup.  It’s not a bad soup, but it isn’t even pretending to be Fagioli after switching out chicken broth for beef.

I feel bad telling people I’m making fagioli, but “fagioli, minestrone, hamburger. . . soup. . . thing” is a little long.  I’m pretty sure I’m the only one in my house that actually cares.

First go around, armed with a recipe that calls for roughly two cups of jarred or homemade marinara sauce, I was not exactly betting on success.  I followed the recipe (if by follow you mean add back in bacon and figure zucchini is tasty and add way too many carrots), and I have to admit it was pretty lame.  So I went off book, added a ton more spices, and ended up with minestrone-hamburger soup.  Tasty, but off the mark.

Second round, much more successful. The recipe is definitely more of an “inspired by” at this point though. In my base marinara sauce, this go around I add bay leave and rosemary instead of just thyme, basil, and oregano that serve as my standard spices.  For the broth, I used a blend of chicken and beef instead of just beef.  I restrained myself on carrot usage, grudgingly admitted that adding zucchini meant no one would believe me that it’s not minestrone, and used canned kidney beans because I was too lazy to go for dried this time.

Of course, the canned white kidney beans that I swore existed in my pantry never materialized, so I ended up dealing with dried beans anyway.

I threw everything together and simmered and threw spices in until I thought it tasted right.  I ended up with a tasty end product that I think is close, and I have little idea on the proportions beside “heavy on the oregano”.  I am writing this down so at the very least I can remember what is in it.

The mouth feel is still thin though.  I was all set to try the trick of throwing in a pack of unflavored gelatin to get the “of course I made this broth painstakingly from scratch” constancy, but I apparently hallucinated the gelatin’s existence in my pantry as well.

Still, even without the proper mouth feel, a better (less minestrone) second shot that went over well with the house mates.

As for the opinion of the official critic, I got a “close”.  Not the goal, but way better than “almost edible minestrone”.



Olive Garden Fagioli, Round Two

Yield: 6-8 servings


  • 3 strips Bacon
  • 1.5 Onions, chopped
  • 2 tsp chopped garlic
  • 3 stalks celery, sliced
  • 1 lb ground beef
  • 3 small carrots, match-sticked
  • 1 28oz can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 16oz can diced tomatoes
  • 2 16oz cans Kidney beans (or equivalent amount cooked up from dry)
  • 2 16oz can White Kidney Beans (or equivalent amount cooked up from dry)
  • 1.5 cup ditalini pasta
  • Roughly 30oz Beef Broth
  • Roughly 10 oz Chicken Broth
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 3-5 tsp oregano
  • 2 tsp thyme
  • 4 inch spring rosemary, finely chopped
  • 3/4 bunch parsley
  • pepper
  • salt
  • Package of unflavored gelatin (optional)


  1. Cut the bacon into small pieces, saute until fat is released. Add onion, saute until translucent. Add garlic, saute briefly. Add celery
  2. Once onion, garlic and celery is done, add the can of crushed tomatoes, can of diced tomatoes, all spices except parsley. Bring to boil, let simmer.
  3. While tomato sauce is simmering, cook and drain the ground meat. Add to tomato sauce.
  4. When the tomato sauce has lost the raw tomato taste, add the broth, carrots, and beans. Bring to a simmer.
  5. Cook the pasta separately, in well salted water.
  6. After the soup has simmered for at least 15 minutes, add parsley. Taste, and adjust.
  7. Throw in cooked pasta, and bring to a simmer. Let simmer for 30-40 minutes, keeping an eye on levels of broth and adding more if necessary. Add gelatin if using. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Note:  I threw in a lot more extra salt than I would have predicted based on the fact that I was using both bullion and canned beans, so pay attention to salt level.

3 thoughts on “Olive Garden Fagioli, Round Two

  1. OMgoshhhh. This looks and sounds amazzinnggg!!! I am totally making this. You’re awesome. I’m so not an experimental cook like this. I couldn’t come up with a “version” of anything to save my life!

  2. My review :) I added about a Tb of sugar to cut back on the acidity and I also sauteed my veggies a bit longer. I like them less crunchy. Lastly, I let it simmer close to 45 min. yummm. It serves 6-8 people. SO much. I froze the rest in individualized portion sized servings. Thank you so much for sharing :))

    • Thanks for the feed back! One cooking class I took told me that generally if things tasted too acid, salt not sugar neutralized it better, so that’s why I stopped adding sugar to tomato things. I definitely added a lot more salt than I would have thought to get everything tasting where I wanted it though!
      Time to simmer is something I forgot to add, because I let it sit for so long while figuring things out. I’ll add that in, along with how many it serves. The boys eat so much, I generally just aim for lots!

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