Rachel Getting Hungry: “Sorry, Olive Garden!” Soup

by Rachel on February 2, 2011

One of the reasons I used to be um, bigger, is because during my junior year of high school, I developed a serious and intense love for Olive Garden. My friend Grant and I would go pretty much every day. I always had the same thing: unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks. (Note to marketers: nothing speaks to the poor big girl like the word “unlimited.”) My soup of choice was always zuppa toscana, which is a spicy sausage soup.

In hindsight, I think the unlimited breadsticks were a bigger problem than the unlimited soup (How much soup did I really eat when I was full of breadsticks?!) but regardless, I stopped frequenting the Olive Garden when I started eating healthier. I had forgotten all about my beloved soup until recently, when I decided I needed more sausage in my life. Luckily, I was able to make a version of it that is, for lack of a better word, bomb-ass.

Seriously, this is one of the most delicious soups I’ve ever had and I love soup, so I don’t take statements like that lightly. It’s a variation on a soup recipe via Emily from Relishments and an old ragout recipe from Cooking Light, with a little inspiration from my potato and kale soup (which can be a great vegetarian/vegan variation).

This is How We Do It

Heat a large pot over medium-high heat and add 1 tsp olive oil, 1-2 cloves minced garlic, 1/2 cup chopped white onions, and 1 lb. ground Italian sausage (I used sweet Italian chicken sausage). Cook until sausage is brown. Add 5 and 1/2 cups of chicken stock to the pot with 4-6 small red potatoes chopped into bite-sized pieces and one can cannellini or other white beans, drained and rinsed. Turn up the heat to bring the soup to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer.

While the soup is heating, tear (or cut, if you aren’t lazy like me) a bunch of kale into small pieces, until you have about four cups. Add the kale to the simmering soup and let it simmer until the potatoes are soft, about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. Turn off the heat and stir in 1/2 cup heavy cream. Add salt and pepper to taste and serve!

This is one of those getting it moments where I’m just like, Oh…so I could have avoided 99 percent of those trips to Olive Garden with this recipe. Oops.

Um, better late than never, right?

I actually made this soup one morning before work. I really wanted a good lunch that day; this was the day after I realized I had no more leek and cranberry fried rice and was forced to eat Subway, which just made me feel sad. I’d wanted to make this soup the night before, but I hadn’t gotten to it. So I got up 15 minutes early to throw all this together. Making soup at 7 AM felt a little odd, but since there are so few ingredients and it’s so easy, it was pretty easy to do while I finished getting ready.

And it was so worth it. It’s savory, salty, hearty, and comforting, but light enough that you don’t need a nap after finishing it. The recipe made a ton of soup (about eight servings) and I happily ate it all without getting sick of it. Definitely perfect for the snowmageddon the entire country seems to be experiencing right now.

Except in Houston, where it’s pretty cold (in the 30s!) but flurry-free. However, apparently in some sort of effort not to be left out of the nation-wide snow day, the area where I work has lost power. But writing about soup, cozy on the couch in my flannel shirt and Uggs, has made it wonderfully easy to pretend that the weather outside is frightful.

Stay warm and safe today!

{ 15 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Kionda February 2, 2011 at 10:39 am

I used to frequent the Olive Garden a lot as well. My fav, and I hardly ever steered away from it, was the Seafood Portifino. If I can find a alternate recipe for that I would be golden!

This soup looks delish. I need to try it sometime before spring hits. Thanks for sharing. :D


2 Dori February 2, 2011 at 10:41 am

That sounds delicious and comforting. I am glad you realized you need more sausage in your life.


3 shelby February 2, 2011 at 10:59 am

Honestly, that soup looks a thousand times better than the OG version! I have been known to put the major hurt on the unlimited breadsticks and salad while forgoing the soup altogether.


4 Jennifer February 2, 2011 at 11:09 am

Looks great! Too bad I’m snowed in and can’t go to the grocery store to get the ingredients… there’s always tomorrow, hopefully.


5 Jess February 2, 2011 at 11:25 am

seriously the only good thing about olive garden is those breadsticks, love them. this soup looks more than bombass to me. and i have some kale and potatoes i need to use up this week. many thanks lady!


6 Joni February 2, 2011 at 11:30 am

That is so my favorite soup ever!!! Gonna have to make this asap!


7 Melissa February 2, 2011 at 11:43 am

This looks absolutely delicious! I wish I was snowed in so I could make a big pot of it! I’m from Michigan, too, but here in Virginia it’s 70 and breezy. I should be loving this weather, but instead I’m longing for the big cozy fires & giant pots of soup back home right now!


8 Alexandra February 2, 2011 at 12:39 pm

Your posts make me LOL and that’s definitely my favorite type of blog. Even better was finding out you’re a fellow Spartan–GO GREEN! I just graduated this past May and moved to NYC. As for this soup, I will definitely be trying my hand at your recipe. I was a big fan of zuppa toscana as well & can easily throw down an entree and several breadsticks.


9 Stephanie February 2, 2011 at 2:52 pm

I used to be the OG’s biggest patron I swear. Those cracksticks were worth it though.

This soup sounds awesome!


10 Jasmine February 2, 2011 at 4:46 pm

EVERYone is making soup this week! I feel like there was some “Bloggers make soup!” memo that I missed.

Your soup looks great. I used to LOVE Olive Garden’s minestrone. Best minestrone EVER! Unfortunately, I am pretty sure they use beef bouillon in it, so I don’t eat it anymore. However, that’s all the more reason to make my own veg version – hey that would be a great idea for Project Tasteless. Make your own version of a restaurant favorite. Just an idea. <3


11 Bridget@PavementandPlants February 2, 2011 at 5:32 pm

Hmm if only you could recreate those breadsticks…

I dated a real Italian in high school and he hated Olive Garden so much that I stopped going there. Honestly, I never liked their food just their breadsticks. It’s like Red Lobster…nothing good but the cheesy biscuits.


12 Mel at Mmm Stories (@MelKrak) February 2, 2011 at 7:50 pm

Hi Rachel! Soo this is totally unrelated – but the soup looks cool even though I don’t think my Jewish rents would dig the cream+meat – yet as the self proclaimed Facebook “researcher” I’ve always claimed to be, I haddd to share: you were in my dream the other night!

Yep. It was weird. In the middle of the castle dream I was having, I was called into Houston for an interview with your company. Obviously this was a made up job and a made up company and a made up you, but all of a sudden there I was sitting at a large, square, business table with a nice woman. I was so embarrassed to be having a job interview, since I hadn’t expected it and was wearing my pajamas! You – in a green tracksuit – quickly wished me luck. She didn’t really know if there was a gig for me, but did teach me a secret handshake because I “knew you.” Then I walked outside onto a beach to find out I had 2 hours to leave the country — and there was only a 6 hour long train ride available to get out (?)! Then I thankfully woke up.

HAHAHA Thanks for officially providing my dreams some entertainment too.


13 Mary @ stylefyles February 3, 2011 at 1:29 pm

hahah NICE. I have a very similar post running tomorrow….but mine is swiss chard instead of kale, and I didn’t use beans!


14 meredith February 3, 2011 at 5:49 pm

i love their soup too. if ever go now i try to avoid the “never ending” bread sticks and stick to the plentiful salad sans dressing. i still love that place for sure. why oh why does it pull me in so much?? ;)


15 Ashley February 4, 2011 at 12:51 pm

Rachel this soup is incredible! I added a swish of dry white wine as the sausage was finishing and also used mushrooms…I can’t believe I am capable of making something so delicious. Seriously, wow. And thanks!


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