Parmesan rind and a kitchen sink’s worth of aromatics give heady flavor to this classic pasta fagioli recipe with beans and pasta.
- 1½ cups dried cannellini (white kidney) beans, soaked overnight
- 1 Parmesan rind (about 2 ounces), plus shaved Parmesan for serving
- 2 medium carrots, scrubbed, halved crosswise
- 2 celery stalks, halved crosswise
- 1 head of garlic, halved crosswise; plus 2 cloves, chopped
- 2 dried chiles de árbol or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes, plus more crushed for serving
- Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
- 3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
- 1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
- 3 ounces dried lasagna or other flat pasta, broken into 1–1½-inch pieces
- ½ small head of escarole, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
Bring beans, Parmesan rind, carrots, celery, head of garlic, parsley, rosemary, bay leaves, chiles, and 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, adding more water as needed, until beans are tender, about 1½ hours. Season with salt and pepper, remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes. Discard vegetables, rind, and herbs.
Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium. Cook onion and chopped garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8–10 minutes. Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands, and cook, stirring often, until liquid is almost completely reduced, 12–15 minutes. Add wine, bring to a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add beans and their liquid; cook until flavors meld, 12–15 minutes. Add pasta; cook, stirring and adding more water as needed, until al dente, 15–20 minutes. Add escarole and cook until wilted, about 1 minute; season with salt and pepper. Serve soup drizzled with oil and topped with Parmesan and more chile.
Marisa’s Pasta Fagioli (Pasta Fazool)
Pasta Fagioli or Pasta with Beans is a comfort food from my childhood. The proper name is Pasta e Fagioli, and is categorized as a soup instead of a pasta. It was often served on Fridays when we did not eat meat. Southern Italians called it Pasta Fazool, based on their Italian dialect word for beans – fasuli (“fa- SU -li,”).
Nobody makes a better Pasta Fazool than my sister Marisa. Her version is a white-style. The creaminess comes from using white northern beans, a small diced potato and a small amount of Ditalini pasta (Ditalini is a short tube shaped pasta) added to the chicken broth. Her signature is adding fresh escarole and rosemary. She does not use a tomato base. Instead she adds one small chopped fresh tomato. Lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese and extra cooked Ditalini is served on the side.
There are many variations of Pasta Fazool. My Mother’s version was very plain – just Hunt’s tomato sauce, garlic and white northern beans. She made it thin, and served it over Ditalini pasta. I love my Mom’s garlicky, tomato version, but love my sister’s creamy white version too. Being an Italian home cook means putting a spin on childhood favorites. Thank you Marisa for sharing yours.
Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli with Escarole
Instant Pot pasta e fagioli starts with an easy homemade vegetable stock and ends with a comforting tomato based noodle soup. Cannellini beans, escarole, and cracked lasagna noodles make this one hearty and filling pasta e fagioli soup.
You guys know I am a fan of the Instant Pot and Crock-Pot Express Crock, clearly. I mean, I did write an entire book worth of recipes using these miracle devices, after all.
Truth be told though, I was a hard sell for a while.
“Do I really need another device?” asks the person with two Crock-Pots.
If anything, I should have invested in a new food processor. BTW—anybody have a good one that they love, Christmas and Black Friday are kind of right around the corner.
Curiosity got the best of me and, even though I had an Express Crock, I got the Instant Pot. Then like magic, the Instant Pot cookbook deal came along. Poof!
Me and my Instant Pot are now official best friends.
Having to pump out 75 recipes in a matter of months really forces you to get to know a cooking device. Overall, I would say it does all the same things as the Express Crock. The one nice thing that my Duo has that the Express Crock doesn’t is it has a button for just pressure cook.
I don’t like to have to guess about which specific button to use. Like, what’s the difference between Soup/Stew and the Meat button? Isn’t high pressure just high pressure?
If you are on the fence about purchasing a multi-cooker, just know that I use mine all the time. I use it as a slow cooker and a pressure cooker. It was a seamless transition.
We love to eat and cook pork shoulder carnitas all the time. Sometimes, I don’t remember to defrost the shoulder and get it in the slow cooker before I go to bed. Having the option to crank that baby out in an hour through pressure cooking, and still get similar results is so, so nice.
Ok, infomercial is now over.
Instant Pot pasta e fagioli. The only way this super homemade recipe could get even easier is if you skip the homemade vegetable stock step and go right to soup making.
I always have random vegetable scraps on hand, so that step is rarely skipped for me.
The great thing about this soup is the big, cracked lasagna noodles. The even greater thing is that you get homemade vegetable stock and soup in 15 minutes.
Finding comfort in canned soup during the pandemic
During the pandemic, many of us have been seeking out nostalgia for a sense of comfort and normalcy — whether that's in the form of childhood recipes, long-canceled sitcoms, coming-of-age novels, cult-classic rom-coms or old-school board games.
And while I do constantly crave my mother's cooking — she's an incredible cook — it's not something homemade I find myself reaching for when I'm feeling worn down by the news of the day. It's canned soup. Specifically, Progresso's Macaroni and Bean (Pasta E Fagioli).
Mainly made with Great Northern beans, macaroni, celery, tomato paste and dried Parmesan cheese (plus some other not-so-sexy-sounding but standard ingredients like hydrolyzed corn protein and xanthan gum), the soup delivers a creamy, starchy umami bomb in every spoonful. For a while, I was convinced there was MSG in there because of the intensity of its umami flavor, but nope, it's just Parm.
Like most other canned soups, all you do is crack open the can, dump it in a pot and heat it up. I like to add a little extra pecorino, fresh cracked pepper and crushed red pepper on top, but that's it. Instant comfort. In terms of taste and texture, it's really nothing like the pasta e fagioli you get from Italian restaurants or your nonna — it's a lot simpler. No vegetables (aside from almost-invisible celery), no meat, no herbs. Suspended in a thick tomato broth, the beans and pasta have the same, mushy consistency — far beyond al dente.
But it's what my mom often used to make for me and my brother for lunch on weekends, paired with a simple salami sandwich. That is, to this day, one of my all-time favorite meals.
In March, when I had COVID-19, I lost my sense of smell and taste, and while I was thankful I didn't have more severe symptoms, I was genuinely worried I would never taste Progresso's Pasta E Fagioli again.
Thankfully, after about a month, I did end up regaining my smell and taste. And all I wanted was to eat the soup … but I couldn't find it anywhere. I could normally secure a can or two at my local supermarket in Harlem, New York, but no stores around me had it. They had other Progresso varieties — Minestrone, Chicken Noodle, New England Clam Chowder — but no Pasta E Fagioli in sight. Are people hoarding it? I asked myself. Is there a Macaroni and Bean shortage?
Food What it's like to lose your senses of smell and taste
Luckily, my parents, who were quarantining in upstate New York, would occasionally find them at the supermarket. And when they did, they'd buy an armful of them — not all of them, they're not monsters — a couple for them, a couple for me.
I looked into it and found out that many food manufacturers, like General Mills, which owns Progresso, had been paring down their production during the pandemic to focus on making only the most popular and fastest-moving items. This, according to Bloomberg, is known as "SKU rationalization." No, people weren't hoarding Pasta E Fagioli — it just didn't make the cut.
Chris Borges, senior brand manager of Progresso, confirmed my suspicion: "We have nearly 90 flavors of Progresso Soup. In the early, pantry stocking days of Covid, we prioritized about 50 flavors," he wrote in an email. "While our Macaroni and Bean (Pasta E Fagioli) is popular in the Northeast United States, it was not one of our priority flavors."
My favorite flavor couldn't even crack the top 50. I couldn't believe it.
Though my ego was bruised, I was happy to hear that it would be making a comeback: "However, the good news is that we are still making this flavor and anticipate it will be more widely available in the Northeast soon," said Borges. "Many of our other Progresso flavors are also being brought back."
And he told me another gratifying tidbit of information: Pasta E Fagioli was the third Progresso soup to ever be made, followed by Escarole.
"Macaroni and Bean (Pasta E Fagioli) was established as a Progresso flavor in 1955," he said. "Minestrone was first in 1949 and Lentil second in 1951."
It's one of the OGs of canned soups. Why hadn't Warhol painted it? A missed opportunity, to be sure.
"Minestrone, Lentil, Macaroni and Bean (Pasta E Fagioli) and Escarole … were family recipes from the Uddo and Taormina families," said Borges. "These original recipes were literally 'written on the wall' next to the cooking kettles of the first Progresso plant and were less structured than our recipes are today."
Progresso, I found out, had come about as a result of the merging of two prominent Sicilian importing companies in New Orleans, Louisiana, owned by Vincent Taormina and Giuseppe Uddo. In 1925, Taormina and Uddo joined forces to create "The Uddo and Taormina Corporation," specializing in canned Italian food products like soup, olive oil, tomatoes and beans, and began selling their soups under the Progresso label in 1949, starting with Minestrone.
Would I be able to get one of those recipes "written on the wall" by the Uddos and Taorminas? Could I possibly make my own Pasta E Fagioli from scratch?
Food Soup it up: 16 ways to make the canned stuff way better
"Back then their measuring was a bit different than today," a General Mills spokesperson told me. "While I do not have the exact recipe, it would have read something like this: 2 shovels of pasta, 3 shovels of beans, etc."
I'd be OK with shovel measurements, I said. I could buy a shovel. But he really couldn't find the recipe.
"Progresso had several owners prior to us purchasing it in 2001 so unfortunately we do not have full archives on the brand," he said, adding that he would keep trying, but it was "not looking good."
I will just have to continue rationing my small supply to last me until it returns. A can of comfort a week. I have tried to make it myself using a copycat recipe, which was very solid, but in this case, store-bought is actually better than homemade (believe it, Ina).
I recognize that publishing this piece might make it harder to find, but I have hope that when it returns, like my parents, shoppers would leave at least a couple of cans behind for me.
Emi Boscamp is the food editor at TODAY and creator of the series "COLD CUTS with Al Roker," "Saucy" and "Head of the Table." She was born without a sweet tooth, but in its place she has an umami tooth (her favorite food is anchovies). Follow her on Instagram.
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 6 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 onion, chopped
- ½ cup chopped mushrooms
- 1 medium head escarole - rinsed and quartered
- 16 ounces tomato sauce
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 pinch dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon white sugar
- 2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans
- 1 pound ditalini pasta
Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until done, approximately 8 to 10 minutes. Drain pasta, but reserve water for later use.
In a large skillet over medium heat, warm oil and saute garlic, onion, and mushrooms until soft. Place escarole on top of vegetables in the skillet, and cover until the escarole is wilts. Stir in tomato sauce and beans. Season with oregano and sugar, and salt and pepper to taste. Simmer over low heat for approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Mix the cooked pasta into the sauce. Mix in 1 cup of the reserved pasta water stir in more if necessary to achieve desired consistency.
Pasta e Fagioli with Escarole
Parmesan rind and a kitchen sink’s worth of aromatics give heady flavor
to this classic pasta fagioli recipe with beans and pasta.
1½ cups dried cannellini (white kidney) beans, soaked overnight
1 Parmesan rind (about 2 ounces), plus shaved Parmesan for serving
2 medium carrots, scrubbed, halved crosswise
2 celery stalks, halved crosswise
1 head of garlic, halved crosswise plus 2 cloves, chopped
2 dried chiles de árbol or ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes,
plus more crushed for serving
Kosher salt, freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more
1 14.5-ounce can whole peeled tomatoes
3 ounces dried lasagna or other flat pasta, broken into 1–1½-inch pieces
½ small head of escarole, leaves torn into 2-inch pieces
Bring beans, Parmesan rind, carrots, celery, head of garlic, parsley,
rosemary, bay leaves, chiles, and 2 quarts water to a boil in a medium
pot. Reduce heat, cover, and simmer, adding more water as needed,
until beans are tender, about 1½ hours. Season with salt and pepper,
remove from heat, and let sit 30 minutes. Discard vegetables, rind,
Meanwhile, heat 3 Tbsp. oil in a large pot over medium. Cook onion
and chopped garlic, stirring occasionally, until softened, 8–10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, crushing with your hands, and cook, stirring often, until
liquid is almost completely reduced, 12–15 minutes. Add wine, bring to
a boil, and cook until almost completely evaporated, about 5 minutes.
Add beans and their liquid cook until flavors meld, 12–15 minutes.
Add pasta cook, stirring and adding more water as needed, until
al dente, 15–20 minutes. Add escarole and cook until wilted, about 1
minute season with salt and pepper. Serve soup drizzled with oil and
topped with Parmesan and more chile.
Soak the beans overnight covered with water. Next day drain the beans, put them in a pot, cover with water and cook them until the skins easily slip off. Drain the beans and set aside.
Put the escarole in a large sauté pan, cover the pan and wilt the leaves down. Drain the escarole and squeeze out most of the water. Coarsely chop it and set it aside.
In the same sauté pan, heat the olive oil, add the onions and cook them over medium heat until they are very soft. Stir in the garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and the escarole, and continue to cook for three or four minutes. Stir in the olives and the beans.
Serve hot as an accompaniment to meat or fish or serve as an antipasto over slices of toasted bread.
CLICK HERE TO GO DIRECTLY TO THE RECIPE
The Italian Bean soup with pasta has very old roots. Since the time of the Roman Empire, it was common prepare Pasta Fagioli with the only variety of beans known at that time: the black eye peas, imported from West Africa.
The Pasta Fagioli as we know it nowadays comes with the discovery of America, and the importation of the American beans started since the first years of the XVI Century. The Pope Clement VII (born Giulio de' Medici) introduced the new beans since 1528, at first in Tuscany and the Papal States, then in Veneto where the canon Pietro Valeriano started the plantation of beans in the countryside around Belluno.
In the beginning, the "new" American beans like Borlotti or Cannellini where exclusively served on the tables of rich people and nobles, while the poor and working class kept going to eat the "old" black eye peas. Over the years, the use of the black eye peas felt into disuse, and now in almost all the region of Italy Pasta Fagioli is prepared with the American beans.
Nutty spelt is toasted with a bit of pancetta and stirred into this brothy bean soup. Add the escarole to the pot a few minutes before serving so it doesn't overcook. Top each bowl with shaved Parmesan.
This quick, warm salad is really more of an Italian-inspired stir-fry. Toss shrimp in a hot pan with garlic, capers, and anchovies, add a handful of escarole, and top with Parmesan.
Since 1995, Epicurious has been the ultimate food resource for the home cook, with daily kitchen tips, fun cooking videos, and, oh yeah, over 33,000 recipes.
- Author: Cookie and Kate
- Prep Time: 20 minutes
- Cook Time: 40 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour
- Yield: 6 bowls 1 x
- Category: Stew
- Method: Stovetop
- Cuisine: Italian
Pasta e fagioli means “pasta and beans” in Italian—this recipe is much more than that! This hearty vegetarian stew is full of irresistible fresh flavor. It’s vegan, too, as long as you don’t top it with cheese. Recipe yields 6 bowls or 8 cups of soup.
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 medium-to-large yellow onion, finely chopped
- 2 carrots, scrubbed clean, finely chopped
- 2 ribs celery, finely chopped
- ¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
- Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
- 1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes*
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 3 cups water
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, omit if sensitive to spice
- 2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, or chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked beans)
- 1 cup (about 4 ounces ) cavatelli, ditalini, elbow or small shell pasta of choice
- 2 cups chopped Tuscan kale (tough ribs removed first), or chard or collard greens
- ¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
- 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about ½ medium lemon)
- Optional garnishes: Additional chopped parsley, black pepper, grated Parmesan cheese or light drizzle of olive oil
- In a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and about 10 twists of black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and the onions are turning translucent, about 6 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cook until the tomatoes are bubbling all over. Add the broth, water, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and reducing the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Use a heat-safe measuring cup to transfer about 1 ½ cups of the soup (avoiding the bay leaves) to a blender. Add about ¾ cup of the drained beans. Securely fasten the lid and blend until completely smooth, being careful to avoid hot steam escaping from the lid. Pour the blended mixture back into the soup.
- Add the remaining beans, pasta, kale and parsley to the simmering soup. Continue cooking, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot, for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta and greens are pleasantly tender.
- Remove the pot from the heat, then remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Taste and season with more salt (I usually add another ¼ teaspoon) and pepper until the flavors really sing. Garnish bowls of soup as desired, and serve.
- Leftovers taste even better the next day. Allow leftover soup to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Or, freeze leftover soup in individual portions and defrost as necessary.
Recipe adapted from my minestrone recipe, with reference to Bon Appétit (and their comments section!).
*Tomato recommendation: I always use Muir Glen tomatoes, and used their fire-roasted crushed tomatoes since they don’t offer plain.
Make it gluten free: Use a small, sturdy, gluten-free noodle, such as a corn and quinoa blend.
Make it dairy free/vegan: Don’t add cheese. Simple as that.
If you don’t have a stand blender: You can use an immersion blender to blend (carefully) a portion of the liquid with the beans in a separate (heat-safe) container. Or, skip this step altogether. Your soup will be a little more chunky and less creamy, but still very good.