endless-soup-salad-and-bread sticks lunch deal.
Which really is a deal even if, like me, you can't go more than one round of soup, salad, or bread sticks. Though actually I could probably have gone a few more rounds with the salad and the bread sticks- I love Olive Garden salad above all, it's my favorite salad on the planet, and who couldn't sing the praises of Olive Garden bread sticks 'til the cows come home? - had I opted to skip the soup, which by the end of the meal I was kind of wishing that I had.
Not that my soup was all that bad. It just wasn't all that good. I'd give it a mediocre. Or maybe a mediocre minus.
I had the pasta e fagiole, a tomato-y broth with ground beef, beans and little tube pastas, which bore a strong resemblance to Tom's minestrone, which was a tomato-y broth with vegetables, beans and little shell pastas. Neither soups, thought I, was worth having relinquished the opportunity to fill up on the salad and bread sticks.
However these decidedly unexceptional soups did remind me that I have an out-of-this world minestrone recipe which I clipped from the Columbus dispatch years ago and have slightly altered over the years, the memory of which inspired me to run to Kroger's and buy the necessary ingredients for a batch, which I made the other day for Sunday supper and which became a celebratory repast after the Cleveland Browns won against the Atlanta Falcons. (See yesterday's post). Had the Browns lost it would have been consolation comfort food.
Anyway, my initial impulse was to offer my minestrone recipe to Olive Garden, but then my second impulse, the one I'm opting to act on, is to share it with everybody else.
So anyway, here it is, my Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Columbus-Dispatch-with-a-few-changes-made-by-me minestrone recipe:
Better-Than-Olive-Garden-Columbus-Dispatch-With-A-Few-Changes-Made-By-Patti Minestrone (makes a huge potfull.)
Note: This is a two-part recipe, but the first part can be made in advance and refrigerated for a day or two or frozen.
Part 1, the slow-roasted tomato base*:
2 cans (28 oz. each) diced tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 tablespoon bottled minced garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon oregano
Place a rack in the middle of the oven. Preheat to 300 degrees.
Pour the tomatoes into a colander and set them in the sink to drain. Spray a 13-by-9 inch glass or ceramic (NOT METAL) baking dish with cooking oil spray.
Scatter the chopped onion pieces in the baking dish. Add the tomatoes to the dish. (If some of the juice is still clinging to the tomatoes that's OK). Add the olive oil, garlic, and oregano to the dish. Stir until the ingredients are well combined.
Bake uncovered in the middle of the oven for 2 1/2 hours, stirring once halfway through, until the tomatoes are thick and most of the liquid has evaporated.
Part 2, the minestrone:
2 tablespoons olive oil
16 oz. sliced fresh mushrooms
40 baby carrots (for about 2 cups sliced)
2 teaspoons bottled minced garlic
8 cups of canned chicken broth**
4 cups of beef broth**
1 cup orzo pasta
2 15 oz. cans chickpeas
2 cans (2 1/2 oz) sliced olives
slow roasted tomatoes, defrosted if frozen
2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
1 tsp sugar
2 cups frozen green peas
shredded Parmesan cheese for topping
Heat the oil in a big pot over medium high heat. Add the mushrooms and begin to cook, stirring frequently, while cutting the carrots into thin slices, adding them to the pot as you slice. Add the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently, until the carrots are crisp-tender and the mushrooms begin to loose their liquid, about another 2 or 3 minutes. Pour the chicken broth, beef broth, and orzo into the pot.
Increase the heat to high, cover the pot, and bring the broth to a boil. While the soup is coming to a boil, stir the ingredients from time to time as the orzo will stick to the bottom of the pot. Also, while bringing the soup to a boil, rinse and drain the chickpeas and olives.
When the soup comes to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the tomatoes, chickpeas, olives, Italian seasoning and sugar. Stir frequently, adjusting the heat if necessary to make sure the soup maintains a vigorous boil and cook until the orzo is just tender, about 8 or 9 minutes more. In the last two minutes of cooking, stir in the still-frozen peas.
Serve topped with shredded Parmesan cheese if desired.
*Slow roasted tomatoes can also be used as bruschetta or pizza topping or as pasta sauce or over vegetables.
**I always make my broth from chicken or beef bullion powder.
Tommy and Randy,
consummate Brown's fans.