A delicious and hearty slow cooker pasta, vegetable, and ground beef soup copycatting the famous “Olive Garden” Pasta E Fagioli.
To get this soup recipe just right, I tried to convince the husband that he needed to take me to Olive Garden on a weekly basis (I started by saying bi-weekly but I could just feel his eyes begin to roll) until I got it *just* right. If he had agreed, I also had a secret agenda not to perfect a recipe for the next four months. That would have been a lot of Olive Garden trips! ??
However, he didn’t buy it. He knows me and my secret agendas too well by now. BUT he has taken me on a few dates to Olive Garden, and this is the soup I order each time! So I did have a pretty good idea exactly how I wanted it to taste and this soup is pretty close to the exact pasta e Fagioli you’d get at Olive Garden!
This isn’t just a soup recipe where the crockpot makes things super simple; it’s one where the slow cooker makes everything more tasty! By slow cooking the ingredients all day along with a hearty tomato-based sauce like Prego Chunky Garden, the ingredients have a wonderful chance to meld and heighten.
I tried this recipe by putting the dried pasta into the crockpot and cooking it that way, but I didn’t LOVE the taste as much as when the pasta was cooked separately. If you are looking to save an extra pot and make things easier, you can add in the pasta about 30 minutes before dinner time (then set the crockpot to high). However, if you are looking for the taste of the Olive Garden soup, I would cook it separately. The little bit of red wine vinegar tossed in the pasta balances the acidity of all the tomato very well. So if you cook the pasta in the crockpot, add in vinegar (or at least a little to taste!)
For the spaghetti sauce, I used Prego Chunky Garden, which gives this soup such a great flavor and adds more texture, but the Traditional Sauce works as well! So if you already have Prego in your cupboard, you don’t have to run out and switch. Both sauces work, and I love the super rich tomato flavors in this soup!
- 1 pound extra lean ground beef
- 1 cup (~3-4) sliced carrots
- 1 cup (~4-5 stalks) chopped celery
- 2 teaspoons minced garlic
- 2 cans (14.5 ounces EACH) diced tomatoes undrained, I like fire-roasted
- 1 can (15 ounces) dark red kidney beans undrained
- 1 can (15 ounces) white cannellini beans undrained
- 1 jar (14 ounces) Spaghetti Sauce
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3/4 cup ditalini pasta meaured when uncooked
- 1 and 1/2 teaspoons seasoned salt
- 3/4 teaspoon freshly cracked pepper
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 1/2 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
- 1 bay leaf
- Optional: freshly parsley, freshly grated Parmesan cheese, 2 teaspoons red wine vinegar
- In a medium-sized skillet over medium heat brown the ground beef and drain out the grease. Transfer to the slow cooker.
- To the slow cooker, add in the carrots, celery, garlic, diced tomatoes, red kidney beans, white cannellini beans, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, salt, pepper, oregano, basil, thyme, and bay leaf. Stir.
- Cover and cook on high for 3-5 hours or low for 5-7 hours or until the vegetables are tender.
- About 20 minutes before serving, boil the pasta until al dente. Reserve the water and drain.
- Toss the pasta with red wine vinegar (optional; adds flavor/freshness, balances acidity of all the tomato)
- Either add the pasta to the soup or serve on the side. I like to serve the pasta on the side so you can add what you want and then store (or freeze) the remainder of the soup without the pasta getting "soggy."
- ALTERNATIVELY, (if you plan on eating this soup all in one day), you can add the uncooked pasta to the soup about 30 minutes before serving (turn heat to high).
- Garnish with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and fresh parsley if desired.
This soup is extremely thick and hearty -- more of a stew-like consistency. We LOVE it this way, but if you prefer a "brothier" soup, add in some beef broth. OR add in some of the reserved pasta water and a cube or two of beef bouillon.
Recipe Adapted from Top Secret Recipes
Here are some more delicious crockpot soup recipes: