Posts Tagged ‘olive garden’

Toasted Ravioli

Monday, May 11th, 2009

When I was about 7 years old, an Olive Garden opened near our house. Of course, by “near our house,” I’m pretty sure I mean almost an hour away. Which to a 7 year old, seemed even longer.

When we got to the restaurant, there was the longest wait for a table that I had encountered in my young life. I didn’t really go out to dinner all that often, so that isn’t surprising. And a brand new restaurant, one that doesn’t take reservations? Of course, everyone should’ve seen that coming. I remember waiting impatiently with my parents and grandparents for our table. It felt like standing in line at Great America. I was hungry, and thirsty, and tired. My sister, who couldn’t have been older than 2 or 3 was of course eveb more crabby than I was. We waited and waited and waited.

The one bright spot in this endless wait was when the host brought out appetizers for the full lobby. They were just samples, a show of good faith, a thank you for sticking it out through the long delay. But I remember them, in part because I was starving, and in part because they were delicious.

Toasted Ravioli.

My mind boggled at the thought. I’m pretty sure the only ravioli I’d eaten actually came in a Chef Boyardee can. Maybe a frozen tray. Nothing against the food I grew up with (there are plenty of great cooks in my family) but ravioli wasn’t something that we ate with any regularity.

Toasted ravioli, though. That was something I could get excited about. They were hot and crispy, with spicy marinara sauce for dipping–just like a mozzarella stick. I don’t think we would have ever tried them if the host hadn’t been passing them around. It sounded too weird, and we didn’t really order appetizers back then. I’m glad we got the chance to try them though, because everyone liked them. My mom will still order them for her entree at the OG, and when I worked there as a server in college, they were a favorite of mine.

These days, though, I can make them at home. It’s super easy.

Toasted Ravioli

  • 1 package refrigerated bite-sized cheese ravioli (if you want, you can use frozen, but be sure to thaw them completely first. You can also use any flavor you like, but I like the cheese ones for this).
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup Italian bread crumbs
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • Extra virgin olive oil

1. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet over medium high heat. You want the oil to shimmer, but not smoke. If it starts to smoke at all, turn off the heat and let it cool down before trying again.

2. Place beaten eggs in a shallow dish. Combine bread crumbs and cheese in a second shallow dish.

3. Dip ravioli in eggs to coat, and then dredge in bread crumb mixture until covered completely. I usually do this in three separate batches. Let the ravioli sit for about 5 minutes, to make sure the coating really sticks to the pasta.

4. Place ravioli into preheated oil in a single layer. Fry for 1-2 minutes per side, turning once, until golden brown. Remove to a large plate lined with paper towels. Repeat until all ravioli has been fried. If you’re making these for a large group (they’re great for that!), cooked ravioli can be held on a cookie sheet in a 300 degree oven to keep them warm and crisp. Serve with warm marinara sauce for dipping.

Olive Garden Zuppa Toscana

Monday, March 2nd, 2009

When I was in college, I worked as a server at The Olive Garden. One of the staples of my diet while I was there was soup (the other was breadsticks!). One of the problems with working in a restaurant like that is you learn to like all sorts of dishes, but when you visit the restaurant as a “civillian,” you have to choose just one thing.

Luckily, now that I can make Zuppa Toscana and Pasta e Fagioli at home, I can at least remove the soup or salad choice from that dilemma!

zuppa_toscana_3752

I may have stolen that picture from the Olive Garden website, but I promise–mine was just like the real thing!

Olive Garden Copycat Zuppa Toscana
Serves 4-6

Ingredients

  • 1 lb sweet bulk Italian sausage (or links, with the casings removed)
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 3 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2/3 cup cream
  • 4 quarts chicken stock (homemade or from a box; don’t substitute broth)
  • 3 slices bacon
  • 6 c water
  • 1/4 tsp ground aniseed
  • 1 bunch kale, cut into bite size pieces
  • 1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 3-4 large russet potatoes, sliced
  • 1 large onion white, finely chopped

Directions

1. Bring chicken stock & water to a light boil & add potatoes.

2. In a large skillet cook bacon until somewhat done & remove from the pan. Crumble the bacon and reserve for later.

3. Sauté the onion in the bacon fat until the onions are a golden brown color. Add to boiling stock & potatoes.

4. In the same skillet add olive oil, garlic and crumbled Italian sausage. Cook over medium high heat until the sausage is cooked through, about 7-8 minutes. When sausage is cooked, add the contents of the skillet to the boiling stock & potatoes.

5. Continue to cook at a light boil until the potatoes are fork tender. When they are done reduce heat and add cream, crumbled bacon, kale, salt, anise, red pepper, black pepper. Simmer over low heat for 10 minutes, to allow the flavors to come together. Serve with grated Parmesan cheese and garlic bread.

Note: I made this as listed the first time I tried it, and it was good, but I found that we all picked around the kale, so I left that out the second time. That’s another reason to recreate restaurant favorites at home–I only have to add the parts I like!

Pasta e Fagioli

Friday, January 2nd, 2009

Throughout my tenure as a server at the Olive Garden, I had what seems like millions of breadsticks and at least 100,000 bowls of soup. This soup at the OG is a lot like chili, but with an Italian twist. This recipe recreates it pretty well, with a few punched up ingredients.

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Olive Garden Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 8

  • 1 lb. 93% lean ground beef
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 1 large carrot, cut into matchsticks (about 1 cup)  (I buy pre-shredded carrots)
  • 3 ribs celery, diced (about 1 cup)
  • 2 14.5-oz. cans diced tomatoes, undrained (I used San Marzanos this time, and they were amazing)
  • 15-oz. can tomato sauce
  • 1 ½ cups vegetable juice (I used V8)
  • 15-oz. can red kidney beans, undrained
  • 15-oz. can great northern beans, undrained
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • 1 ½ tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • ½ tsp. dried thyme
  • 4 oz. (1 cup) uncooked ditalini pasta (I used small shells)
  • freshly grated parmesan and croutons or garlic toast for garnish

Brown the ground beef, in a stock pot, stirring to break it up until no longer pink and cooked through; drain off any drippings.

Add garlic, onion, carrot and celery to the pot; cook, stirring, 5 to 6 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Add remaining ingredients (except pasta); reduce heat to low and simmer for 1 hour. When there are just 10 minutes of cooking time left, prepare the pasta as package directs for al dente noodles; drain.

Add pasta to soup and simmer for an additional 5 to 10 minutes. Serve immediately.