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.