At this point, “Olive Garden copycats” is a whole recipe genre. Pretty much every cooking blog out there promises they’ve unlocked the secrets to the Italian food chain’s various recipes. From Olive Garden’s breadsticks, to their eggplant parmesan to their chicken alfredo, there are dozens of copycat recipes available online. I’ll admit, I’m guilty of following them now and again. But there’s a reason you’re looking up the recipe instead of actually driving to Olive Garden: because it gives you a chance to take a tried-and-true recipe and put your own twist on it. Olive Garden’s Chicken & Gnocchi Soup is the perfect canvas.
When I first found out that gnocchi soup existed, I was extremely suspicious. I’d only ever tried gnocchi with pesto or marinara sauce — who thought it would be a good idea to let the little potato balls float in broth? Well, whoever invented it was a genius. I was hooked on Olive Garden’s Chicken & Gnocchi Soup the second I tried it. It’s homey, warm and full of filling ingredients — because, let’s be honest, there’s nothing worse than slurping down a whole can of chicken noodle soup, still being hungry and viciously needing to pee.
Most Chicken & Gnocchi Soup copycat recipes, such as my inspiration by Creme De La Crumb, stay strictly true to the Olive Garden original. Yet, determined to make the ultimate rendition of the familiar favorite, I took a few liberties. To create a creamier base, I swapped half-and-half for heavy cream and added a handful of shredded parmesan cheese. To give it some smoke, I added chopped bacon and a dash of paprika. Oh, and I got rid of the celery. If you actually think celery is a worthwhile soup ingredient, you’re lying. Or you were simply indoctrinated by your grandmother early on. Either way, trust me, you’re better off without it.
Yield: 6 servings
Time: 40 minutes
- 2 raw chicken breasts
- 16 ounces package of gnocchi
- 8 ounces bacon, chopped
- 2 cups baby spinach
- ½ cup white onion, diced
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 5 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup heavy cream
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- ½ teaspoon paprika
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Shredded parmesan cheese
- In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add onions, garlic, carrots and chopped bacon and saute until beginning to brown.
- Season the chicken breasts with Italian seasoning, salt, pepper and paprika, then add to the pot. Cook for 2-3 minutes on each side. The chicken will still be slightly raw on the inside, but don’t worry, that’s how it should be.
- Add the chicken broth to the pot and bring to a boil. Add the gnocchi and boil according to package directions. Reduce heat until the liquid is at a simmer.
- Remove the chicken breasts from the pot to a cutting board. Shred or dice the chicken, then toss back into the soup.
- Add the cream and spinach to the pot, then mix and simmer for a few more minutes until the spinach is wilted. If desired, add more salt and pepper to taste.
- Top with a generous amount of shredded parmesan cheese, then serve!
Made in one pot in under an hour, this recipe takes less time than driving to the nearest Olive Garden in Oxnard. Plus, it’s the perfect meal for a rainy day. And if the rest of winter quarter resembles anything like its first few weeks, you’ll have plenty of poor weather to justify giving chicken gnocchi soup a chance.
A version of this article appeared on p. 10 of the January 26, 2023 version of the Daily Nexus.