Pasta e fagioli is a simple, hearty soup-type dish made with pasta and beans. Some of you may know this dish from your Italian relatives, friends or local restaurants as “pasta fazool.”
Everyone seems to have their own special recipe for pasta e fagioli, and this one is my family’s. This is the type of rustic Italian dish that my parents grew up eating -- "peasant food," meaning it was cost-effective, hearty and the ingredients were readily available.
Peasant food or not, pasta e fagioli will fill you up, warm you up and it makes a satisfying meal -- especially when it’s served with rustic Italian bread and a glass of wine.
This is a vegetarian recipe (and vegan if you swap out the Parmesan cheese), but many people add prosciutto or bacon to the dish for added flavor.
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans (or Great Northern)
- 1 cup low-sodium vegetable stock
- 3 cups water
- 2 small tomatoes, diced or you can use 1/4 cup marinara sauce
- 1/4 cup diced onion
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- 3/4 cups elbow macaroni (or any small pasta)
- 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese, grated, for garnish
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, torn in small pieces, for garnish
Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with Beans)
Pasta e fagioli, comfort food during cold winter days, is one of the most traditional, widespread and appreciated Italian recipes. In fact in the Mediterranean diet, beans are commonly used to prepare nutritious and healthy dishes, and for this reason they are known as “the meat of the poor people”, rich in carbohydrates, proteins, vitamins, minerals, soluble fibers, as well as being low in fat. Like many other Italian recipes, this one started out as a peasant meal made of easily available and inexpensive ingredients such as beans , garlic, onion, carrots, celery, potatoes and tomatoes. Further, it was common to use spicy cured lard, prepared seasonally each autumn during pig-slaughtering season, to add some extra flavor. Because of its popularity, there are many variations all over the country: for example some do not include tomatoes at all some use vegetable stock and avoid lard (making this particular version a suitable dish for vegetarians) some recipes are more soupy while others are thicker. The type of beans may vary as well, usually either borlotti beans or cannellini beans, fresh or dried. I prefer borlotti beans because of their nutty sweet flavor and creamy texture. These light brown beans with red marks are a variety of kidney beans commonly cultivated in Italy but originally from America. Italians enjoy these types of beans in summer as well, preparing an excellent cold bean salad flavored with fresh sliced onions, ground pepper and tossed with olive oil.
Pasta and Beans (Pasta e Fagioli)
recipe has been made in family for generations serves 4
- 8 ounces bite size pasta (tubetti, small shells, broken spaghetti, linguine etc. can all be used) I use De Cecco for best results
- 8 ounces (one cup) cooked beans (any kind of bean will do, including garbanzo I used Borlotti)
- 4 ounces meatless pasta sauce (1/2 cup) more or less depending on your taste of course homemade is best, but a good quality vegetarian sauce from a jar will work, just don’t tell me :(
- (optional – Parmigiano Reggiano, grated, to serve – please don’t use a lower quality cheese-read my rant below)
Cook the pasta until it is almost al dente (a little hard, not completely cooked) making sure there is plenty of water in the pot. Remove some water, but reserve to use later, if needed. I usually try to make the water level with the pasta, as in the photo below. Add the beans, and stir to heat through (keep the burner on).
Next, add the pasta sauce. If it’s too dry, add some of the reserved pasta water.
Stir thoroughly, and just let the pasta start to come to a boil, then remove from heat. Ladle the pasta and beans into serving bowls, add grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and dinner is served!
Just a fair warning: everyone seems to want second and third helpings of pasta and beans, so you’d better make extra. If not, you may have lots of empty bowls and sad faces (especially applies to the little ones).
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
- 2 medium carrots, finely chopped
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 cups Swanson® Chicken Broth or Swanson® Certified Organic Chicken Broth or Swanson® Natural Goodness® Chicken Broth
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning, crushed
- 1 (14.5 ounce) can diced tomatoes, undrained
- ¾ cup short tube-shaped ditalini pasta, cooked and drained
- 1 (15 ounce) can white kidney beans (cannellini), undrained
Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat. Cook the celery, carrots, onion and garlic until they're tender.
Stir the broth, Italian seasoning and tomatoes in the skillet. Heat to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and cook for 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender-crisp.
Add the pasta and beans and cook for 5 minutes.
Place half of the broth mixture into a blender or food processor. Cover and blend until smooth. Pour the pureed mixture into the skillet. Cook over medium heat until the mixture is hot.
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 12 ounces sweet bulk Italian sausage
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- ½ yellow onion, chopped
- ¾ cup dry elbow macaroni
- ¼ cup tomato paste
- 3 cups chicken broth, or more as needed, divided
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, or to taste
- ¼ teaspoon dried oregano
- 3 cups chopped Swiss chard
- 1 (15 ounce) can cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained
- ¼ cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus additional for serving, or to taste
Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Brown sausage while breaking it into small pieces, about 5 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add diced celery and chopped onion. Cook until onions are translucent, 4 to 5 minutes. Add dry pasta. Cook and stir 2 minutes.
Stir in tomato paste until evenly distributed, 2 to 3 minutes. Add 3 cups broth. Raise heat to high and bring to a simmer. Add salt, black pepper, pepper flakes, and oregano. When soup comes to a boil, reduce heat to medium and let it simmer about 5 minutes, stirring often. Check soup consistency and add more broth, if needed.
Place chopped chard in a bowl. Cover with cold water and rinse the leaves any grit will fall to the bottom of the bowl. Transfer chard to colander to drain briefly add to soup. Cook and stir until leaves wilt, 2 to 3 minutes.
Stir in white beans continue cooking and stirring until pasta is perfectly cooked, another 4 or 5 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in grated cheese. Serve topped with grated cheese, if desired.
Pasta e Fagioli—the Easiest of Italian Recipes
The well-known Pasta e Fagioli, or pasta and beans, is an Italian treasure. Every family has their own recipe: with or without garlic, with oil instead of bacon or lard, with or without Parmigiano.
You can make your own version very easily. In Italy, pasta e fagioli immediately reminds us of our grandmas. Its full aromatic taste means family, tradition, and home sweet home.
This is my recipe for pasta e fagioli. The base is a genuine mix of sautéed vegetables: carrots, celery, and onion. I first add beans and then the pasta. A little tomato paste makes it appetizing and smooth bay leaves and your favorite herbs make a unique flavor profile. Healthy and balanced, pasta e fagioli is a traditional peasant dish that works well in winter. You need to choose the right ingredients, which call for slow cooking.
A little advice about the ingredients
Beans: In Italy, borlotti (cranberry) beans best suit this dish. In the US, look for cannellini (white kidney) or pinto beans. Red kidney beans, which make the dish richer in color, work as well. According to the kind of beans you buy—frozen, fresh, or dried—the method and the cooking time will vary.
- Sautéed vegetables: They reduce the natural sweetness of the dish. Needed are an onion, a carrot, some celery, and a clove of garlic, which you will remove while cooking (so leave it whole).
- Tomato paste or tomato sauce: Tomato paste makes for a stronger taste tomato sauce is lighter. Mix the tomato sauce with a little tomato paste until you get your favorite result (read the recipe below) .
- Extra virgin olive oil: I always use extra virgin olive oil, which is the most healthy.
- Pasta: Any small ones work. I prefer ditaloni or elbow maccaroni. When I have small pasta of different shapes, which are not enough for a single serving on their own, I put everything together. Fresh pasta is also appropriate: Use the leftovers of the tagliatelle you have just made cut it into small pieces for your pasta e fagioli.
- Fresh herbs: You should use different herbs, such as bay leaves while cooking, and rosemary, thyme, or marjoram before serving.
Some more suggestions for your pasta e fagioli
- If you want to make this recipe completely vegetarian, only use extra virgin olive oil. On the other hand, if you want a more flavorful and rustic soup, use bacon or lard if you have any on hand.
- You should have this dish for lunch, and combine it with a nice crisp salad. Finish off your meal with an orange you will absorb more iron from the dish.
What you should know about beans and their preparation
Beans, just like other pulses (beans, peas, lentils), must be cooked for a long time. They need to be soaked and rehydrated for about 6 to 8 hours, so it’s a good idea to soak them the night before you cook them. If you have an instapot or a pressure cooker, you can cook them instead the same day.
- Soaking beans makes it easier to cook and digest them. The process also reduces the gas-producing compounds. You may use them after cooking or freeze them.
- Slow-soaking beans: Soak the beans in cool water and discard those which float on the surface. Put the beans in a big bowl and cover them with enough water (3x the amount of beans) and set aside in the fridge or in a cold place overnight.
- Fast-soaking beans: Choose the most intact beans and put them in a pot pour 1 liter of water for every 2 cups (200g) of dried beans and bring to a boil. Boil them briskly for a couple of minutes and then remove from the heat. Cover with a lid and set aside for 1-2 hours or until they get hydrated and bloated. Drain them and add them to your recipe.
- In an Instapot or a pressure cooker: Follow the guidelines provided for each machine.
- In the microwave oven: Arrange the beans on a tray big enough to contain them when they are hydrated: cover with cold water and cook on HIGH for about 8-10 minutes. Set aside for 1 hour.
- In case of frozen beans, boil them in salted water for about 3-4 minutes.
No, they aren’t. They are legumes, which are a sub-group of the vegetable food group. They should not be substituted for vegetables in your daily food consumption. Can they replace meat? No, although they are quite rich in proteins, they also contain more carbs than you think and have a high glycemic index, meaning they raise the level of sugar in your blood during digestion. Thus, beans are definitely similar to pasta they should be eaten as moderately as you eat a dish of pasta. In Italy, beans are considered a main dish according to the criteria of the Mediterranean Diet, so have them for lunch side along with a serving of vegetables.
Place the beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and let sit overnight.
The next day, drain the beans, place them in a large soup pot, and cover with cold water. Bring the beans to a boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are still al dente. Add the pasta and boil the mixture for about 15 minutes more, or until the pasta is al dente.
While the beans are cooking, make a battuto, or minced mixture of the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, pancetta, and rosemary. In a skillet, heat, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the minced mixture, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, cover the skillet, and simmer for about 12 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked, add the vegetable mixture, stirring well. Add salt and pepper and serve the soup immediately in individual soup bowls. Drizzle a little of the remaining olive oil over the soup and pass the cheese to sprinkle over the top.
Note: Crusty Italian bread and a simple green salad of romaine and radicchio round out this meal.
This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1993.
Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Beans)
Pasta e fagioli is a simple, hearty soup-type dish made with pasta and beans. Some of you may know this dish from your Italian relatives, friends or local restaurants as “pasta fazool.” Known as “peasant food” because it is inexpensive to make with ingredients readily available, this well-loved dish makes a delicious and hearty meal!
- 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
- ¼ cups Diced Onion
- 2 Small Tomatoes, Diced
- 2 cloves Garlic, Minced
- 1 cup Low Sodium Vegetable Stock
- 3 cups Water
- ¼ teaspoons Salt
- 1 teaspoon Black Pepper
- 1 teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
- ¾ cups Elbow Macaroni, Or Any Small Pasta
- 2 cans (15 Oz. Size) Cannellini Beans, Rinsed And Drained
- 1 Tablespoon Fresh Parsley, Torn Into Small Pieces, For Garnish
- ¼ cups Parmesan Cheese For Garnish
In a large stock pan over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and the onion. Allow the onion to cook until it is tender (about 3 minutes). Add the tomatoes (or marinara sauce) and garlic and incorporate it into the mixture. Cook for just 1-2 minutes (be careful not to burn the garlic).
Add the vegetable stock, water, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes. Bring this to a boil and then add your pasta. Lower the heat and allow the pasta to cook until it’s about 3/4 of the way finished (still slightly firm).
Add beans and allow the mixture to continue cooking until the pasta is fully cooked (about 10-15 minutes). Add the parsley toward the end of your cooking time. Taste and adjust the seasoning as needed.
Serve in individual bowls with extra parsley as garnish and sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese.
List of Ingredients
- 1 LB. of mixed pasta
- 1 LB. of dry white cannellini beans
- 7 OZ. of extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 OZ. of sage
- 4 of aged Parmigiano crusts
- 3 of garlic cloves
- 2 of carrots
- 1 of onion
- 1 of celery stalk
- 1 of sprig of rosemary
- 4 OZ. of dried Trasimeno beans
- 4 OZ. of round white beans
- 3 OZ. of dry red cannellini beans
- 1 of bunch of parsley
Soak the white cannellini beans in 3x their weight of water overnight. Drain. Then wash the Parmigiano crusts and cook in a pot with boiling water for about 1 hour. Once cooked, drain and let them cool to room temperature. Then dice into cubes. Keep the cooking water. Cut the onion into thin sticks and the celery and carrots into cubes.
Brown them in a pan in a veil of oil. Add the cannellini beans to the fried onion, stir for a few minutes, then cover with the cooking water from the parmesan crust and continue cooking for about 2 1/2 hours. Heat 200 g extra-virgin olive oil to 155°F (68°C). Add the garlic, sage and rosemary to infuse with the oil for 15 minutes. Then filter with a fine-meshed strainer. Blend the cannellini with the infused oil for about 5 minutes, then filter the cream for a super-smooth consistency.
For the beans: Soak the three different types of beans in water (three times their weight) in three separate containers overnight. Drain and cook them separately in plenty of water. Once cooked, drain and add them to the white cannellini cream.
For the parsley powder: Wash the parsley well and mince the leaves. Dry the parsley stalks overnight in an oven set to 113°F (45°C). Once dried, blend them to make a powder.
To simplify: Spread the parsley on sheets of baking parchments and dry it by putting them in the microwave at full power for 3 minutes at most, checking the dryness every minute. Let them cool and mince.
To complete: Cook the pasta, drain and simmer it with the cannellini cream. Then add the celery and onion, Parmigiano crusts and fresh parsley leaves. Distribute the pasta on plates and complete with parsley powder.
Pasta and Beans
Almost every southern Italian family has a version of pasta and beans, called pasta e fasola, pasta fazool, or pasta e fagioli. In my version I use the speckled red borlotti, or cranberry bean, although this is a matter of preference since kidney or cannellini beans can also be used.
Italians make this hearty soup with fresh beans when in season. In the winter, dried beans are first soaked and then cooked. The pasta used is a small tubular macaroni called ditalini. Substituting elbow macaroni is acceptable.