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.
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.
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.
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!