It’s hard to not go overboard when you’re at Olive Garden. From the Never Ending Pasta Bowls to the all-you-can-eat breadsticks and tiramisu for dessert, it’s pretty much a carbapalooza. Luckily, for people who want a lighter option, there’s Olive Garden minestrone soup.
This healthy, hearty vegetable soup is easy to replicate at home using a few pantry staples and fresh produce from your grocery store or farmers market.
How to Make Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup
This recipe makes 6-8 servings. Pair each bowl with copycat Olive Garden breadsticks!
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1/2 cup sliced celery
1/2 cup chopped carrots
1 tablespoon minced garlic
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1/3 cup tomato paste (about half of a 6-ounce can)
1 (14-ounce) can diced tomatoes
4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15-ounce) can dark kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 small zucchini, halved and sliced
1/2 cup fresh or frozen green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup small shell pasta
2 cups fresh spinach, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving
Tools You’ll Need
Step 1: Saute the soffritto
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery and carrots (aka soffritto or mirepoix).
Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 minutes. Then add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Season the vegetables with Italian seasoning, salt and pepper to taste.
Step 2: Caramelize
Add tomato paste (here’s what to make with the leftover tomato paste), stir to coat the vegetables, and caramelize for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.
Step 3: Add broth and tomatoes
Add the diced tomatoes and vegetable broth to the pot. Bring to a simmer.
Step 4: Toss in beans and pasta
Add the white beans, kidney beans and pasta to the pot. Simmer for 6-8 minutes until pasta is almost al dente.
Step 5: Stir in greens
Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the spinach, green beans and zucchini and cook for 2-3 minutes or until the spinach is wilted and veggies are tender-crisp.
Editor’s Tip: If you prefer your zucchini and green beans to be extra tender (no crunch) you can add them to the soup when you add the beans and pasta to extend their cooking time.
Step 6: Garnish with fresh herbs
Garnish the soup with fresh basil and parsley, ladle the soup into bowls and top generously with Parmesan cheese. We recommend serving a slice of Olive Garden chocolate lasagna for dessert.
Tips for Making Minestrone Soup Just Like Olive Garden
Here are our favorite tips for making the best Olive Garden minestrone soup from scratch!
Vegan Minestrone Soup
Vegans rejoice! You can order Olive Garden minestrone soup when dining in or ordering curbside since it is now prepared entirely vegan. You can also easily make this minestrone soup recipe vegan by choosing vegetable broth over chicken broth and omitting the final sprinkling of Parmesan cheese at the end.
Minestrone Soup with Meat
While Olive Garden minestrone soup is made vegan in the restaurant, you can certainly make yours meaty at home. Stir in some cooked ground Italian sausage, sliced spicy chicken sausage or even cooked shredded chicken for extra protein.
The Best Vegetables for Minestrone Soup
While the recipe, as it is written above, uses the same ingredients as Olive Garden’s minestrone soup recipe, don’t be afraid to change things up based on what you have in the refrigerator. Minestrone soup has traditionally always been made with whatever in-season produce is on hand (like this bread soup) so don’t hesitate to stir in some sliced yellow squash, eggplant, kale, butternut squash or potatoes.
Just keep in mind that some vegetables may take longer to cook than others, so you may need to add them earlier in the cooking process to ensure they’re tender for serving.
To blanch or not to blanch?
That IS the question. To preserve the vibrant green color of the green beans and zucchini, you may blanch the vegetables first before adding them to your soup.
To blanch the vegetables, add them to a pot of boiling, salted water for 1-2 minutes before plunging them into an ice bath. The ice bath halts the cooking process and stops enzyme actions in the vegetables which can cause their color to fade.
It’s a totally optional step (one that Olive Garden always skips) but it makes for a more vibrant and colorful homemade minestrone soup.
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