A bowl of Pasta e Fagioli sits on a white place, surrounded by lettuce and breadsticks.

Where I went to college, only Freshman had classes on Fridays. It wasn’t some mean rule to punish the 18-year-olds, it was just that the incoming Freshman didn’t know any better. It took a semester or two to realize that, hey, most people don’t have classes on Friday, and plan your schedule accordingly. So once I figured it out, I managed to avoid Friday classes for the remaining three (and a half, ahem) years of college.

In our circle of friends, Friday became a nice and calm day to relax and have fun before the activities of the weekend began. I usually worked Friday mornings (I’ve always been a morning person), and then I’d get off around noon, and my friends and I would head out somewhere and grab lunch. Being poor college students, we were all about lunch specials, and Olive Garden’s $5.95 unlimited soup, salad and breadstick lunch became one of our absolute favorites. As a decently well-cultured lover of food, I should be sad thinking about all the meals I could have eaten at some awesome farm-to-table restaurant, and instead wasted at a mediocre chain restaurant, but the truth is, I still love soup, salad and breadsticks from Olive Garden. Send someone over to collect my foodie card.

A dutch oven filled with soup ingredients is mixed together with a wooden spoon.

It was usually just us girls who headed over to the other side of town and camped out at an Olive Garden table chatting about what we were going to wear to the party that night. I have so many fond memories of giggling with my girlfriends over a glass of peach iced tea and a hot bowl of soup. I really like all the soups Olive Garden serves, but I’d have to say the Pasta e Fagioli is my favorite. Pasta e Fagioli literally translates to pasta and beans. The soup originates from an Italian peasant dish that mixed together two of the cheapest ingredients available—pasta and beans—in either a broth or tomato-based sauce.

Unlike most foods at Olive Garden, the Pasta e Fagioli is actually somewhat authentic. It’s definitely a more modern take on the classic recipe (it includes meat, something that wouldn’t exist in many peasant recipes), but compared to many of their other dishes on the menu, it’s a pretty close replica to what you’d find at an authentic Italian restaurant.

A bowl of Pasta e Fagioli sits on a white place, surrounded by lettuce and breadsticks.

When I make Pasta e Fagioli at home, I make it into more of a pasta dish than a soup. I really like it to be thick and very stick-to-your-ribs. You can easily adjust the thickness by reducing or increasing the amount of pasta. Typically, you’ll find Pasta e Fagioli made with small pasta like ditalini or mini elbow macaroni, but I don’t tend to keep those on hand. I do keep orzo on hand (I love me some orzo), so that’s what I like to use. If you want to be authentic, go ahead, but I promise you aren’t going to ruin anything if you use whatever small pasta you have kicking around.

A bowl of Pasta e Fagioli sits on a white plate, surrounded by lettuce and a breadstick. A red dutch oven is seen in the background.

This recipe is one of those dishes that is really good straight off the stove, but becomes life-changingly delicious once it has melded in the fridge overnight. You could whip up a batch of this on the weekend, and then eat on the leftovers for lunch for the week. Yum!




Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

Yield: 8 servings
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 40 minutes
Total Time: 45 minutes

This hearty, stick-to-your-ribs soup is a healthy copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 1 pound mild Italian sausage
  • 1 16-ounce can tomato sauce
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 2 15-ounce cans Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
  • 4 cups chicken broth
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon oregano
  • 2 teaspoons dried basil
  • 1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • 1-2 cups orzo (depending on how thick you'd like you soup)


  1. Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven or soup pot over medium-high heat. Add in the red pepper flakes and garlic, and saute until garlic is fragrant and slightly tender—about two minutes. Add in the onion, and cook until translucent—about three minutes. Add in the Italian sausage and cook until browned.
  2. Add in all the remaining ingredients, except the orzo, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes, then add in the orzo. Cook for an additional 10 minutes, or until the soup is thick and bubbly and the orzo is cooked.
Nutrition Information:
Yield: 8 Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 470Total Fat: 20gSaturated Fat: 7gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 15gCholesterol: 35mgSodium: 1615mgCarbohydrates: 49gFiber: 11gSugar: 6gProtein: 25g

At Wholefully, we believe that good nutrition is about much more than just the numbers on the nutrition facts panel. Please use the above information as only a small part of what helps you decide what foods are nourishing for you.

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  1. Wow I just stumbled across your blog, and I’m so glad I did! Pasta Fagioli is my favorite at Olive Garden, and I’ve been dying to find a great recipe to whip up at home! This looks so absolutely delicious…can’t wait to try it! 🙂

  2. Wow, what an easy great recipe for fall! I’ll have to keep this in mind. Totally with you on the Friday classes. Took me a semester to realize that going to every class wasn’t obligatory 😉

  3. Ummm, that looks amazing. BIG mistake reading this right before I head out for a run – HUNGRY 🙂
    Although, I was sure hoping for a breadstick recipe as well 😛

  4. Oh wow does that look and sound delicious! Gonna have to try this as soon as we get settled after the move. Perfect for the fall weather for something warm and cozy. 🙂

  5. This looks soooo good. Now just gotta figure out how to make it vegetarian (husband is vegetarian) without just leaving out the sausage. Maybe seasoned seitan?

      1. I’m planning on making it with Field Roast Italian sausage- you could try that! Field Roast veggie meats are out if this world good and no weird ingredients. Apple sage is my fave but I think the Italian would be great here (no I don’t work for them, just vegan and FR are the only veg meats I’ve found worth eating so spreading the love)

  6. This looks crazy good, Cassie! I’ll replace the chicken broth with vegetable (since we eat a vegan diet) and it’s a hearty meal for my family during the cold winter months ahead. Thanks for sharing!

    Also, could your photography get any better? Answer: No. No it cannot.

  7. I tried pasta e fagioli for the first time recently and I was blown away- SO good. I’ll be bookmarking your recipe for future use. And plus, it’s perfect for fall/winter! 🙂