A copycat recipe for Olive Garden’s Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and bean soup) for the Instant Pot. Easy to make. Hearty and rich, perfect for a cold winter night.
Growing up, my favorite meals weren’t like other kids. Two of my absolute favorites, polenta and pasta e fagioli, weren’t evenly commonly known in the mid 1980s–at least not in the area where I grew up.
Today you can find pasta e fagioli on the Olive Garden menu. And most folks have tried polenta, either creamy or grilled. (I love it both ways.)
Here’s where I state the obvious: the pasta e fagioli I ate growing up looked nothing like the one that’s served at Olive Garden. The one my very frugal, immigrant grandmother made was simple. She combined great Northern beans and ditalini pasta in a thin, flavorful tomato sauce. Other than the tomatoes, onions, and garlic in her sauce, there were no additional vegetables. Her pasta e fagioli was a cross between a soup and a bowl of pasta. Meat was never, ever included.
The Olive Garden version includes meat and…kidney beans.
Can we talk about kidney beans for a second? I’ve always disliked them. I remember them as tough, gritty beans. To be honest, I don’t think I’ve eaten in years.
But when re-creating a recipe as beloved as this one, I don’t futz around with it. I ordered a bowl of pasta e fagioli from the Olive Garden for pickup. I wasn’t looking forward to trying it–that’s how much I dislike kidney beans.
The soup surprised me. While I found the soup a bit salty for my taste, I enjoyed it. Was it like the pasta e fagioli that my grandmother made? No but it was really good–hearty and rich and perfect for a cold night.
And those kidney beans? I loved them. They were nothing like the kidney beans in my memory. They were creamy and flavorful. I can’t wait to cook with them again.
I ended up loving this version of pasta e fagioli. It’s hearty without being too rich. The tomato sauce, vegetables, and spices almost reminded me of a stew. If my grandmother’s version was a cross between a soup and a pasta dish; this one is a cross between a stew and a pasta dish. And I’m totally fine with that.
How to Make Pasta e Fagioli in the Instant Pot
- Sauté the Meat For this recipe, I ended up using ground Italian sausage and ground turkey. This combination is a departure from the soup that’s served at the Olive Garden which uses ground beef. However, I don’t think your tastebuds will notice. The sausage brings lots of flavor and the turkey lightens the soup. (If you prefer ground beef, go ahead and use it.
- Add the Vegetables. After cooking the meat, add the diced onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for three minutes. This step is key. Cooking the vegetables before starting the pressure cooking cycle adds important flavor. Don’t skip this step.
- Deglaze the Pot. Cooked-on food can cause the “burn” warning to appear on the display of the Instant Pot. To avoid this, add 1/4 cup of chicken broth and scrape the bottom of the pot to remove any stuck on bits.
- Add the Remaining Ingredients. Once you’ve deglazed the bottom of the pot, add the remaining ingredients and stir.
- Cook for Three Minutes. This soup only needs three minutes under pressure. However, since the pot is very full, it takes about 15 minutes for the pot to reach pressure. Be sure to plan for that.
- Allow a 10 Minute Natural Release. If you were to vent the pressure cooker as soon as the cooking time completed, soup could potentially spray out of the valve. To avoid this, allow the pot to cool for ten minutes before venting.
How to Reheat Pasta e Fagioli.
Pasta e fagioli leftovers thicken quite a bit because the pasta soaks up the liquid. Don’t worry about this. When reheating, add enough water to loosen. Like magic, you’ll soon have a flavorful broth. You can do this if you reheat the soup on the stove or in the microwave.
Instant Pot Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli
A copycat recipe for Olive Garden's Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and bean soup) for the Instant Pot. Easy to make. Hearty and rich, perfect for a cold winter night.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 8 ounces mild or spicy or Italian sausage
- 8 ounces 93% lean ground turkey*
- 1 small onion, finely diced
- 3 small carrots, peeled and sliced into coins
- 2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced or put through a garlic press
- 4 cups low or no sodium chicken broth
- 1 (16-ounce) can tomato sauce (Hunt's recommended)
- 1 (15-ounce) can diced tomatoes
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- pinch red pepper flakes
- 1 (15 ounce) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15-ounce) can Great Northern beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup ditalini pasta
- Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Select Sauté and adjust to the "high" setting. Add oil to the insert pot. Heat until "hot" appears on the display. Add the sausage and ground turkey. Cook, breaking up with a wood spoon, until no pink remains.
Add onions, carrots, celery, and garlic. Cook for three minutes, stirring frequently. Add 1/2 cup chicken broth. Scrape bottom with a wooden spoon to remove any stuck on bits. This is important. Cooked on food can cause the "burn" message to appear.
Add remaining chicken broth, tomato sauce, diced tomatoes, kidney beans, Great Northern beans, basil, pasta, basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Stir to combine.
Close and lock the lid. Set the valve to sealing. Press Cancel. Select manual (High pressure). Set the time to 3 minutes. When the cooking time completes, allow the pressure to release for 10 minutes. After 10 minutes, carefully turn vent to release remaining pressure. Remove lid. Stir soup. Adjust salt and pepper to taste. Serve.
One of the best things I’ve made in the IP. I use homemade no sodium added chicken stock (also an IP fave), local italian sausage (great twist btw). Great flavor, easy, quick. Thanks!
Sherry Christison says
What is a great northern bean, I’ve never heard of them before. Is there another bean to substitute?
I’m not sure where you live but Bush’s (a brand of beans) sells Great Northern beans. If you can’t find them, either white Navy beans or cannellini beans are a good replacement.
Hi! Have you ever frozen this? Wondering how it’ll hold up.
Yes! It freezes very well. The pasta, however, after being frozen, does get a little soft.
I made this a few weeks ago and again tonight. One of the best IP recipes! Very tasty and makes a pot full. I love the convenience of being fast and that it taste good.
Delicious, quick and easy to put together .. it’s now a family favorite
sooooo good. made a big batch! froze some. made it last week and its gone!!!! yum
Margaret Hester Latham says
I am going to make this for this weekend and take to a friend’s house. I am wondering if I can make the recipe the day before, as is, but leave out the pasta. On the next day, reheat the soup and then add the pasta (cooked and drained) before serving. I don’t want to have pasta sitting in the soup overnight and be mushy the next day since this is for my friend. I don’t mind when it is left-over, but at least for the 1st time to eat it, I want it to be like your recipe. Just wondering. Thank you.
That sounds like a fabulous idea! You can simply cook the pasta in salted water and then, as you said, drain it and add to the soup.
Yes! That is how they do it at the olive garden (i worked as a prep cook on the soup station way back in the day)
john kish says
was super easy to make and tasted great, thoug I used beef stock and no red pepper flakes. I’m celiac so I used gluten free noodles. I will make this oten Just put everything in instant pot with browned meat and let it go.
What about cooking a double batch would I increase the cooking time?
No. The cooking time would not change. Be sure your pressure cooker can hold a double batch. You never want to fill the pot more than halfway full.
I hope this helps!
Beverly a Norris says
I made this at hunting camp and it was a big hit! All the guys really liked it.
Kate Somera says
Do you have the nutritional info? Just made it tonight and OMG its good. Thank you.
I don’t! I’m sorry. Glad you enjoyed it!
Connie Estridge says
Do you mean 3 baby carrots or 3 whole carrots?
3 small regular carrots. Not baby!
When do you add the pasta?
The pasta is added in step three.
I made this for my family twice in one week! Now it’s a staple in our household
So you cook for 15 minutes instead of 3 minutes?
It’s a three minute cook time with a 10-minute natural release. However, since the pot is full, it takes about 15 minutes for the pressure cooker to reach pressure before the cook cycle begins. I hope this helps!
Do you put in dry pasta or cooked pasta?
I can’t find ditalini. Recommended substitute? A “cup” is that 8 oz as dry pasta doesn’t come by the cup?
A good substitute for ditalini is either elbows or small shells. (The shells are very small, about the size of a pencil eraser.) You want about 6 ounces of pasta.
Janice Cappelli says
Can I cut the recipe in half?
If you have the 5 or 6 quart, you can cut it in half. If you have the 8-quart, I’m not sure.
Big hit! So much flavor. I used all Italian sausage but will try 50/50 mix next time. I did cook my pasta separate and added after release.
Karyn Maria says
The recipe doesn’t mention when you add the pasta and if you cook it beforehand.
Hi. Yes, it does. The pasta is added in step three.
It doesnt say add Pasta anywhere.
I was wondering the same.
So u add when u add last with all other ingredients?
The pasta is included in step three, as I mentioned before.
If you plan to reheat this or eat over the next day or two, cook pasta separately as it absorbs too much of the liquid and gets soggy.
I like to make this and cook the pasta separate and add. This way I can freeze or eat next day and always have perfect fresh pasta. I make mine and do nit like pasta mushy. This is a great recipe!
We live in Arizona and it is really starting to heat up. I am a soup lover and I chose this soup as my last soup until probably November… I have probably used this recipe 20 times. Its what I make for Christmas dinner. Just wanted to say thank you for creating the recipe and would recommend it to anyone! It is my family’s favorite soup and so easy to make.
Alta Larkins says
I made it yesterday. Tweaked it a bit. Used 8 oz ground beef instead of turkey, canned carrots. added them with the canned beans. Also used Italian seasoning instead of basil and oregano (3 teaspoons), cooked my pasta added it last. Loved the results. This a keeper. ???
Sandor from South Africa here.
My late mother-in-law was Italian, and her pasta e fagioli was the best. My wife (her daughter) then carried on the tradition of serving up the BEST pasta e fagioli ever, nom nom.
I will add that we NEVER added the pasta to the soup whilst cooking – Pasta was separate from the soup, thus ensuring that the pasta did not get “soggy” – we kept the pasta separate 🙂
My supper plans for sure, and definitely using my pressure cooker for the soup 🙂
Monica Young says
Have you tried ground chicken instead of Turkey? I don’t normally use ground turkey.
I haven’t but I’m pretty sure it would work great.
I just have a question? This looks so good by the way. How would I do it if I leave out the meat? Would it work. Thank you in advance!
I’m sorry! This comment got overlooked. Leaving out the meat is fine.
Susan Palle says
Amazing! My husband likes it better than Olive Garden’s. Thank you!
Colleen Campbell says
I have made this several times. I followed the 1/2 ground beef and 1/2 Italian sausage version but added fresh spinach the last time. It was fabulous!
It’s delicious and super easy
If I cook it 30 seconds less, would the pasta come out firmer? I doubled the recipe so I’ll have a lot of leftovers. The pasta will get pretty mushy
Yes, reducing the cook time would result in firmer pasta. I can’t say what a 30 second change would make because I haven’t tested it.
Jill O says
I’ve made this several times over the past 2 years. The first 2 times I used ground turkey and sausage. However, I wanted my daughter, who is vegan, to be able to eat this delicious soup. So I left out the meat. I actually like the texture of this soup better without the ground meat. It is still very hearty, filling and healthy.