A long time ago, Jim and I used to go to the Olive Garden for the soup and salad lunch special. I usually had soup and salad along with about 100 breadsticks. Anyway, there was a “Chicken Genovese” soup that came through for a test back in the day (say mid-1990s) that we loved. We only lucked into having it a few times, and then it vanished from the menu. Ever since, I have really gotten into the soups with a tomato base and vegetable mixture with beans and pasta added. This isn’t even close to replicating that soup, but that mysterious, unbelievably good offering from Olive Garden’s test kitchen years ago has served as my soup muse ever since. No chicken in this but just as savory.
Soup for Olive Garden Fans
1/2 yellow onion
1 leek, white portion and just a bit of the green stalk
2 containers of Pomi tomatoes
1/2 container of Pomi strained tomatoes
1 cup of whole wheat ditalini (smaller pasta) or penne (I like Hodgson Mill made with flax seed)
1 cup of chopped frozen greens (could be turnip, kale, spinach, whatever you have)
1 can of triblend beans (a can with pinto, red and black beans)
1/2 bag (2 pound bag) of Mediterranean blend frozen vegetables, or carrots, green beans, cauliflower, squash, red and yellow peppers
Garlic and onion powder to taste
2 tsp. basil
2 tsp. oregano
Splash of balsamic vinegar to taste
Cut an onion in half and chop up that portion while saving the rest for another time. Start the pasta on boil.
Cut up the leek and put the leek and onion in a glass bowl with enough water to cover the bottom of the bowl. Microwave for one minute (this softens both without having to sauté.)
In a big pot, add the rest of the ingredients except the seasonings and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and add seasonings except for balsamic vinegar.
Ccover to simmer for an hour or less if you are in a hurry. (What’s left will taste even better the next day). Add balsamic vinegar at the end of the cooking cycle to taste. It will give a nice, dark finish to the soup stock. Drain the pasta and add to the pot of soup. Serve with rye or other low-sodium crackers.