Pasta e fagioli is one of the great Italian comfort foods - a hearty, nourishing soup of beans and tiny pasta shapes in rich, flavorful broth. After the soup is cooked, half of it is pureed which gives this soup a creamy stew-like texture. I've found that using canned white beans to make pasta e fagioli produces excellent results. Plus it allows you to easily cook this delicious Italian pasta and bean soup on a busy weeknight or a lazy weekend.
What is pasta e fagioli?
Pasta e fagioli means "pasta and beans" in Italian - a name that tells you just what to expect. Sometimes the 'e' is dropped and it's called 'pasta fagioli' and sometimes it's called 'pasta fasule' or even 'pasta fazool.'
Pasta e fagioli (or however you want to call it) is a simple rustic soup of beans and tiny tubular pasta shapes simmered in a flavorful broth made from sautéed aromatic vegetables, pancetta, herbs and chicken stock.
What is the authentic pasta e fagioli recipe
I've done lots of research to find the answer to this question.
I've come across folks who insist that true pasta e fagioli should be made without tomatoes or that celery is a must or that to be authentic, this dish has to be made with barlotti beans.
But after combing through multiple authentic pasta e fagioli recipes - this one, this one, and this one - for example, I found that no two are the same. The only definition of authentic pasta e fagioli that stands true, as far as I can tell, is that if your Italian "nonna" (grandma) makes it a certain way, it's authentic. So I'm going with that!
Pasta e fagioli vs minestrone
Some people confuse pasta e fagioli with its Italian cousin minestrone soup because both are made with vegetables, beans and pasta but they are actually quite distinct from one another.
Pasta fagioli is a pasta and bean soup with a thick hearty broth, and though it contains vegetables, they are hardly noticeable because they're finely chopped and sautéed to create the flavor base for the soup. Minestrone, on the other hand, has lots of colorful chunky vegetables, along with beans and pasta, in a thin tomato broth.
My family adores this soup. It's easy to prepare, deeply satisfying and, most importantly, it's absolutely delicious.
Ready to make pasta e fagioli?
Here's what you'll need:
- Onion, carrots, green bell pepper (or celery) and garlic - these vegetables are finely chopped and sautéed to create a delicious base layer of flavor.
- Pancetta - often called 'Italian bacon', pancetta is a flavorful, seasoned meat made from pork belly that's frequently used in Italian cooking to add rich savory flavor to a dish.
- Thyme and Rosemary - fresh herbs are best but dried will work well, too
- Crushed red pepper flakes and a Bay leaf
- Chicken broth - or vegetable broth to make this vegetarian or vegan
- Canned tomato puree - use a good quality imported Italian brand
- Canned cannellini beans - or great northern beans
- Dry ditalini pasta or another small sized pasta shape
- Olive oil - to sauté the aromatic vegetables and to drizzle over the finished soup
- Kosher salt and Freshly ground black pepper
How to make pasta e fagioli
Here's an overview of the recipe with photos. For exact amounts and precise, printable directions, scroll down to the recipe card below.
- Cook the ditalini pasta. Drain it and set it aside.
- In a large pot, sauté the onions, carrots and green pepper in olive oil until the onion is translucent.
- Add the garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme and rosemary and cook for thirty seconds or so, until fragrant.
- Add the pancetta and cook it with the aromatic vegetables for a few minutes more, until the fat has rendered.
- Stir in the beans and the bay leaf, then the crushed tomatoes, broth, salt and pepper.
- Cook the soup for ten minutes at a simmer.
- Remove the bay leaf and puree half the soup which will give the pasta e fagioli a wonderful creamy texture. For less clean-up, I like to puree the soup right in the pot, using an immersion hand blender. If you don't have an immersion blender, a conventional blender or food processor will work well, too.
- To finish, stir in the cooked pasta and simmer the soup for a few minutes until it's heated through.
Pasta e fagioli will keep well for up to three days in a tightly covered container in the fridge, but don't add the pasta or you'll have soup with soggy pasta. When you reheat the soup, boil the pasta and add it in just before serving.
The same goes for freezing. Freeze pasta e fagioli for up to three months - without the pasta. Add fresh cooked pasta to soup after it has been defrosted and heated through.
How to serve pasta e fagioli
A big bowl of pasta e fagioli can easily satisfy as the main course. A small bowl makes a great starter course for an Italian dinner.
Garnish the bowls with chopped fresh basil or parsley, if you like, and pass around the pepper mill and additional freshly grated pecorino Romano or parmesan cheese.
This is such a hearty and satisfying dish, you really don't need anything else for dinner though If you like a side dish with your soup, an Italian tricolore salad with lemon vinaigrette will be perfect. Good crusty bread will also work well with this soup, especially when the bowl is nearly empty and you want to sop up the last delicious bits.
If you cook this pasta e fagioli soup, I hope you'll come back to leave a star rating and a comment. I'd love to know what you think!Print