Food and Drink

Copycat Olive Garden pasta e fagioli soup is a great way to use moose

The fall soup cravings have come on strong over the past week, thanks to that low-lying early morning fog creeping in, marking the season. I was on the hunt for a new minestrone-style recipe, different than my winter minestrone I make every year after the snow flies. I came across this pasta e fagioli recipe, a take on the popular soup from the Olive Garden: vegetables, two kinds of beans and meat settled nicely into a thick, tomatoey broth.

If you happen to have some ground moose meat on hand from a recent hunt, or if a friend or family member might have been kind enough to share theirs with you, this soup is a perfect place to use it. Just substitute ground moose for the ground beef in this recipe. This is also an ideal soup for dipping, so be sure to have a loaf of Italian bread or some garlic toast nearby when you make this one.

Pasta e fagioli soup

Serves 6

1 pound ground beef or ground moose meat
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning (a mixture of dried basil, parsley, oregano, thyme)
2 (14 ounce) cans tomato sauce
1 (14 ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups chicken broth
1 (14 ounce) can dark red kidney beans, drained
1 (14 ounce) can great northern beans, drained
1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta
2 teaspoons sugar
salt and pepper to taste
1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, shaved or grated

In a Dutch oven over medium heat, brown the ground beef or moose meat. Transfer the meat to a plate and set aside. Pour off any fat remaining in the bottom of the pan. Return the Dutch oven to the heat and add the olive oil. Saute the onions, garlic, celery and carrots until the onions are translucent and the vegetables begin to tenderize, about 4 minutes. Add the Italian seasoning and season with salt. Stir in the tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, chicken broth, meat and beans. Bring the mixture to a low boil, turn down the heat, and simmer about 20 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, cook the ditalini pasta al dente according to package directions. Drain.

When the soup is done simmering, turn off the heat and add the pasta to the pot. Add the sugar, stirring to dissolve, and season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle the soup into soup bowls and top each bowl with parsley and parmesan cheese. Serve with garlic bread or slices of Italian loaf. Recipe adapted from Cooking Classy.

An earlier version of this recipe omitted the meat from the list of ingredients to simmer in the pot before adding the pasta.

Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at Her new book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook," is available now. Have a food question or recipe request? Email and your inquiry may appear in a future column.

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