Recipe Review

This Copycat Olive Garden Minestrone Soup Tastes Just Like the Real Deal

published Jan 3, 2022
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Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

When I was a kid, going to the Olive Garden was a big deal. There was only one that was relatively nearby and it was still a bit of a drive from our house. That meant their unlimited salad and breadsticks were reserved for special occasions only.

On such visits, I would intentionally order a bowl of minestrone soup just so I could consume more of those garlicky breadsticks — they were the perfect tool for dunking! Dinner at the Zoo’s Olive Garden Minestrone Soup is directly inspired by the restaurant and is filled with the same mix of vegetables, pasta, and beans you’ll find there. I was curious if it would bring me right back to my childhood, so I headed to the kitchen to find out.

Get the recipe: Dinner at the Zoo’s Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

Credit: Photo: Joe Lingeman; Food Styling: Jesse Szewczyk

How to Make Dinner at the Zoo’s Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

You’ll start by sautéing diced onion, sliced celery, carrots, zucchini, and minced garlic until tender, then season with salt and pepper to taste. Add a can of diced tomatoes, 4 cups of vegetable broth, tomato paste, and Italian seasoning and bring to a simmer.

Stir in cans of drained and rinsed white beans and kidney beans, along with frozen cut green beans and small shell pasta. Simmer until the pasta and vegetables are tender, 10 to 15 minutes. Season with more salt and pepper, add baby spinach, and stir until the spinach is just wilted.

Credit: Sheela Prakash

My Honest Review of Dinner at the Zoo’s Olive Garden Minestrone Soup

This soup was colorful and jam-packed with vegetables, beans, and pasta. While it was pretty to look at, there was almost too much packed into one pot, making it difficult to eat. The zucchini slices were too big for my spoon and I had trouble getting a little bit of everything in each spoonful.

While I appreciated how fast this soup came together, it meant sacrificing some flavor. The ingredients didn’t have enough time to mix and mingle, which resulted in a soup that wasn’t as deeply flavored as I would have liked. It was, indeed, reminiscent of Olive Garden, though. If you’re looking for a solid copycat recipe, this definitely delivers in that regard.

Credit: Joe Lingeman and Jesse Szewczyk

If You’re Making Dinner at the Zoo’s Olive Garden Minestrone Soup, a Few Tips

  1. Quarter the zucchini. To avoid large pieces of zucchini getting in the way of spoonfuls of soup, I’d recommend quartering and slicing the vegetable. That way the pieces will be more similar in size to the other vegetables.
  2. Swap out the pasta shape if needed. I couldn’t find dried small shell pasta when I went shopping for ingredients. Rather than run around to multiple stores, I opted for elbow macaroni, which worked just fine. I think ditalini would also be great.
  3. Try it in the slow cooker. The recipe notes it also can prepared in a slow cooker. Cook everything except the pasta and spinach on LOW for 4 to 6 hours or HIGH for 2 to 3 hours, stir in the pasta and spinach, and continue to cook until the pasta is tender, 20 to 30 minutes more.

Overall rating: 8/10

Have you tried Dinner at the Zoo’s Olive Garden Minestrone Soup? Let us know in the comments.