Did you hear about the Olive Garden restaurant review that went viral a while back? To most people, Olive Garden’s just a basic chain restaurant. It doesn’t taste like your Italian grandma’s home cooking, but overall, it’s a pretty good, predictable dining experience. It’s nothing especially noteworthy to most of us, though.
But an 85-year old columnist, Marilyn Hagerty, rose to Internet fame after she wrote an earnest restaurant critique of the Olive Garden that had just opened in her small North Dakota town, describing it as “the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks.”
She wrote, “The place is impressive. It’s fashioned in Tuscan farmhouse style with a welcoming entryway,” which is adorable since every Olive Garden looks identical. I think my favorite line was when she described the setting by writing, “I noticed the vases and planters with permanent flower displays on the ledges” (a nice way of saying that she noticed the fake flowers).
The Internet fell in love with this sweet, sincere lady, and I’d be willing to bet that Olive Garden’s sales went up a bit after her review went viral. And after all, Olive Garden does have amazing salad and breadsticks.
Homemade pasta e fagoli beats the restaurant version, hands-down. Each bowl is packed with veggies, white and kidney beans, ground beef, spices, and of course, the cutest pasta shapes. I used ditalini, but you could use mini shells, elbows, or whatever kind of small pasta makes your heart happiest.
Copycat Olive Garden Pasta e Fagoli Soup
- 1 pound ground beef
- 1 onion chopped
- 6 carrots, chopped
- 6 stalks celery, chopped
- 2 28 ounce cans diced tomatoes, 1 undrained
- 1 16 ounce can red kidney beans, drained
- 1 16 ounce can white kidney beans, drained
- 30 ounces beef stock
- 3 teaspoons dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 teaspoons dried parsley
- 1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce (optional)
- 1 20 ounce jar spaghetti sauce
- 8 ounces uncooked pasta, Ditalini, elbows, or mini shells work best
- Brown beef in a large soup pot and drain grease. Add the rest of the ingredients except for the pasta and bring to a boil. Turn down to medium low and cook for 2-3 hours. Cook pasta just before serving and add to the pot. Serve topped with grated parmesan cheese, if desired.
- Alternatively, you can brown the beef in a skillet and then add everything except the pasta to a slow-cooker. For this method, cook on low for 7-8 hours or on medium-high for 4-5 hours. Cook the pasta separately and add just before serving.
Adapted from this recipe