With cold weather finally arriving, soup is the perfect dish –– warm, comforting and not packed with calories. The pasta e fagioli at Olive Garden is popular, and there are many look-alike recipes for that soup in cookbooks and on the Internet.

With cold weather finally arriving, soup is the perfect dish –– warm, comforting and not packed with calories.


The pasta e fagioli at Olive Garden is popular, and there are many look-alike recipes for that soup in cookbooks and on the Internet.


Ruth Dieterich of Galesburg, Ill., likes this big-batch version. It’s a blend of several of the faux Olive Garden recipes.


“I have served this soup many times at family get-togethers and have also passed it on to many family members and friends. Everyone loves it,” she writes.


The praline apple bread recipe comes from Toni McCue of Springfield, Ill., who credits the sour cream for making the bread moist. Her family loves the bread’s full flavors.


Ken’s Pasta E Fagioli


1 pound ground beef


1 teaspoon oil


3/4 cup onions, chopped


3 or 4 carrots, slivered


1 cup celery, diced


24 ounces canned tomatoes, diced


1 (14-16 ounce) can red kidney beans


1 (14-16 ounce) can white Northern beans


48 ounces beef stock


1 1/2 teaspoons oregano


1 teaspoon pepper


3/4 teaspoon Tabasco sauce


24 ounces spaghetti sauce


4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped


3/4 cup dry pasta, such as ditalini or shells


Saute beef in oil in 8-quart pot until beef is brown. Add onions, carrots, celery and tomatoes. Simmer about 10 minutes. Drain and rinse kidney and Northern beans and add to the soup. Add beef stock, oregano, pepper, Tabasco, spaghetti sauce, parsley and pasta. Simmer until celery and carrots are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.


Makes 10 to 16 servings.


Praline Apple Bread


1 cup sugar


8 ounces sour cream


2 eggs


2 teaspoons vanilla


2 cups flour


2 teaspoons baking powder


1/2 teaspoon baking soda


1/2 teaspoon salt


1 1/4 cups chopped, peeled tart apples


1 cup chopped pecans, divided


1/4 cup unsalted butter


1/4 cup brown sugar


Grease 9-by-5-inch loaf pan. Heat oven to 350 degrees.


In mixing bowl, beat sugar, sour cream, eggs and vanilla on low speed until combined. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes.


Stir together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt and add to sour cream mixture. Stir gently just until combined. Stir in apple and 1/2 cup pecans. Spoon into prepared pan and sprinkle with remaining pecans, pressing them lightly into the batter.


Bake 55 to 65 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Tent the bread loosely with aluminum foil if it appears to be browning too fast. Cool in pan 10 minutes, then turn out on a wire rack.


As bread is cooling, combine butter and brown sugar in small saucepan. Stir to melt butter, then bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce heat and boil gently 1 minute. When you remove bread from the pan, drizzle top with brown sugar mixture. Cool. Slice and serve.


Makes 1 loaf.


-- We’re looking for soup and slow-cooker recipes. If you have a good one, please send it in.


The Trading Post is a recipe-exchange column that runs every other week and is compiled by Kathryn Rem. Send recipes and recipe requests to the Trading Post, The State Journal-Register, P.O. Box 219, Springfield, IL 62705, or email food@sj-r.com. Please include your name, city and daytime phone number.