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Olive Garden

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    Menu Description: “Slow-simmered meat sauce with tender braised beef and Italian sausage, tossed with ruffled pappardelle pasta and a touch of alfredo sauce—just like Nonna’s recipe.”

    It’s a mistake to assume that a recipe posted to a restaurant chain’s website is the real recipe for the food served there. I’ve found this to be the case with many Olive Garden recipes, and this one is no exception. The widely circulated recipe that claims to duplicate the chain’s classic Bolognese actually originated on Olive Garden’s own website, and if you make that recipe you’ll be disappointed when the final product doesn’t come close to the real deal. I won’t get into all the specifics of the things wrong with that recipe (too much wine, save some of that for drinking!), but at first glance it’s easy to see that a few important ingredients found in traditional Bolognese sauces are conspicuously missing from that recipe, including milk, basil, lemon, and nutmeg.

    I incorporated all those missing ingredients into this new hack recipe, tweaked a few other things, and then tested several methods of braising the beef so that it comes out perfectly tender: covered, uncovered, and a combo. The technique I settled on was cooking the sauce covered for 2 hours, then uncovered for 1 additional hour so that the sauce reduces, and the beef transforms into a fork-flakable flavor bomb. Yes, it comes from Olive Garden, but this Bolognese is better than any I’ve had at restaurants that charge twice as much, like Rao’s where the meat is ground, not braised, and they hit you up for $30.  

    As a side note, Olive Garden’s menu says the dish comes with ruffled pappardelle pasta, but it’s actually mafaldine, a narrower noodle with curly edges (shown in the top right corner of the photo). Pappardelle, which is the traditional pasta to serve with Bolognese, is very wide noodle with straight edges, and it’s more familiar than mafaldine, so perhaps that’s why the menu fudges this fact. In the end, it doesn’t really matter which pasta you choose. Just know that a wide noodle works best. Even fettuccine is a good choice for this Olive Garden braised beef Bolognese recipe.

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    Need a simple cocktail for a hot day when the thought of lemonade makes your mouth water? Try this one. You start crafting this new signature blender drink by making lemon syrup from scratch from lemon juice, sugar and water. Track down some limoncello--an Italian lemon liqueur--and Smirnoff citrus vodka or your favorite citrus vodka. Refreshing and boozy. Sounds good to me.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    The delicious Frozen Tiramisu—Olive Garden's dessert in a glass—requires espresso syrup that you can make with sugar and espresso or strong coffee. Each serving requires just a little of the syrup, so you'll have plenty for several servings.

     

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    I tweaked this world-famous hot artichoke and spinach dip for an appearance on The Dr. Oz Show. Now you can enjoy your favorite appetizer guilt-free. Using reduced-fat cream cheese and Greek yogurt, this recipe cuts the fat and calories of the original dish nearly in half. 

    Original                 Todd's
    488 calories          264 calories
     23g fat                  15g fat

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    Score: 5.00. Votes: 1

    One of the most popular and hard-to-pronounce items on the Olive Garden menu is found in the soup column. It's more like chili than a soup, really, with all those beans and veggies and ground beef in there. The reduced-fat grams in this clone are especially important when we consider that this dish makes an excellent meal by itself, and you may want to eat more than the 1 1/2-cup serving size measured for the nutrition stats.

    We'll keep the added fat to a minimum by sauteing the veggies in what little fat is not drained off from browning the lean ground beef. The soup will fill your mouth with flavor so it won't matter that we aren't adding additional fat. You'll have a hard time distinguishing between this version and the original. Try it.

    This recipe makes about eight 1 1/3-cup servings. If you can't eat it within a few days, it freezes well.

    Nutrition Facts
    Serving size–1 1/2 cups
    Total servings–8
    Calories per serving–312 (Original–416)
    Fat per serving–4g (Original–17.5g)

    Source: Top Secret Recipes Lite by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.84. Votes: 223

    Here's an updated Olive Garden fettuccine alfredo recipe from Top Secret Restaurant Recipes that includes more grated Parmesan cheese and fresh garlic instead of garlic powder. You'll find this sauce thickens easier and has an improved Olive Garden taste. Just be sure not to crank the heat up too high when simmering the sauce or it could break, resulted in a not-so-creamy, curdled Alfredo.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.82. Votes: 301

    Menu Description: "White and red beans, ground beef, tomatoes and pasta in a savory broth."

    It's amazing how many lousy clone recipes for this delicious chili-like soup are floating around. Cooking message boards, and questionable sites that claim to have "actual restaurant recipes" have for years passed off numerous versions that disapoint home chefs. Other formulas leave out major ingredients that you can clearly see in the real thing, like the carrots, or ground beef, or two kinds of beans. Others don't even get the pasta right—it's clearly ditalini pasta, which are short little tubes. If you want the taste of Olive Garden's famous Pasta e Fagioli at home, this may be the only recipe that will live up to a side-by-side taste test. Beware of imitation imitations!

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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    Score: 4.81. Votes: 16

    Menu Description: "A traditional topping of roma tomatoes, fresh basil and extra-virgin olive oil. Served with freshly toasted ciabatta bread."

    Olive Garden's recently redesigned bruschetta recipe improves on the Italian chain's previous version. The tomato salad includes a little sun-dried tomato and balsamic vinegar, and it is now served in a separate dish rather than on the bread. Now the bread doesn't get soggy. The tomatoes are finely diced before mixing with the other ingredients, and the ciabatta bread is sprinkled with a little grated Parmesan cheese before it's toasted. Try to find a nice, chewy loaf of Italian bread for this dish—get the best bread in the store. The better your bread, the better your bruschetta.

    Source: Top Secret Restaurant Recipes 2 by Todd Wilbur.

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