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Olive Garden Minestrone

Minestrone soup has been on Olive Garden's menu since the Italian American restaurant opened in Florida in 1982. And with good reason. It's a hearty, delicious and healthy alternative to the chain restaurant's many rich, fat-laden entrees.

To sweeten the meal deal, they offer unlimited soup, salad and breadsticks, all of which are much beloved and often copied. Which brings me to this recipe, a copycat version of Olive Garden's Minestrone. It's loaded with veggies and beans, which makes it filling. And pasta, which makes it crave-worthy.

Note: I've cooked the pasta separately and added it to the soup when it's served to avoid the pasta becoming mushy. If you want to freeze portions, I recommend leaving the pasta out until you thaw and re-heat your soup.

When I served this to Champ, he placed a big scoop of pasta in his bowl before adding the soup, making his portion less soup-like and more like a pasta dish. He loved it. We added grated Parmesan to our soup. However you choose to serve your Minestrone, congratulate yourself on making a restaurant-quality soup in your kitchen without the help of a trained chef. Truth be known, it really isn’t rocket science.

Instant Pot lovers fear not! Instructions for making this awesome soup in your Instant Pot are below the stovetop directions.

2 Tbsp. Olive oil

3/4 cup onion chopped

1/2 cup celery sliced

1/2 cup carrots, quartered and sliced

1 zucchini, quartered and sliced

2 tsp. garlic minced

salt and pepper to taste

1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes

4 cups low-sodium chicken or vegetable broth

1/4 cup tomato paste

1 Tbsp. Italian seasoning

1 (15-oz.) can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained

1 (15-oz.) can dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained

1/2 cup frozen cut green beans

2 cups cooked small shell pasta

2 cups baby spinach leaves

2 Tbsp. chopped parsley or fresh basil

Grated Parmesan

Heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, carrots and zucchini.. Cook until the vegetables are tender, about 3-5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Season with salt and pepper. (I used 2 tsp. kosher salt.)

Add the tomatoes with their juice, the broth, tomato paste and Italian seasoning to the pot and bring to a simmer.

Add the cannellini beans, kidney beans and green beans and simmer for 10 minutes.

Season the soup again with salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the spinach and cooked pasta and cook for several minutes until the spinach is wilted.

Sprinkle parsley or basil over each serving, and grated Parmesan.

Instant Pot Directions: Turn the Instant Pot to the Saute function. Add the olive oil, onion, celery, carrot and zucchini and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, broth, tomato paste, Italian seasoning and beans. Lock the lid and cook 4 minutes on High pressure. Perform a quick release, remove the lid and add the spinach and cooked pasta.

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