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
Pasta E Fagioli
- Total Time: 40 minutes
- Yield: 6-8 servings 1x
This pasta e fagioli is a delicious Italian pasta and bean soup, hearty enough to serve for dinner and sure to become a family favorite. This recipe uses canned beans so you can easily prepare this on a busy weeknight. Ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with olive oil and pass around the black pepper and grated cheese.
- 5 ounces small tube-shaped pasta such as ditalini or tubetti (1 cup dry)
- ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1 medium yellow onion, finely diced (about 1 ½ cups)
- 2-3 carrots, peeled and chopped (1 cup)
- 1 small green bell pepper, diced (¾ cup)
- 2 tablespoons minced garlic (4 good sized cloves)
- 3 ounces pancetta, chopped
- 1 bay leaf
- Fresh rosemary leaves from 1 sprig, finely chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- Fresh thyme leaves from 2 sprigs, finely chopped (or ½ teaspoon dried)
- 2 15- ounce cans cannellini or great northern beans with their liquid
- 3-4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I use Swanson’s or Pacific Organic)
- 1 28-ounce can Italian plum tomato puree
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
- ½ cup freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmigiana Reggiano cheese
- Fresh chopped parsley or basil, optional garnish
- Cook the pasta in a pot of salted water until 1 minute less than al dente, so if the package says to boil 10 minutes for al dente, boil for 9 minutes. Drain pasta and set it aside.
- Heat oil in a large heavy pot or Dutch oven over med heat. Add onion, pepper and carrots and cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes.
- Add chopped pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, 4 minutes more.
- Add garlic, red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme and cook, stirring for 30 seconds, until fragrant.
- Add the bay leaf, beans with their liquid, 3 cups of broth, tomatoes, salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes, uncovered, at a simmer.
- Remove the bay leaf and puree half the soup using an immersion blender, standard blender or food processor.
- Add the pasta and simmer the soup for a couple of minutes, until heated through. If you desire a thinner soup, add some of the remaining one cup of chicken broth. Taste the soup and season with additional salt and pepper, if needed.
- To serve, ladle the soup into bowls, drizzle with a little olive oil and garnish with fresh chopped herbs and grated cheese. Offer freshly ground pepper and more grated cheese.
Storage: Pasta e fagioli will keep well for 3 days, covered, in the fridge. However, if you are preparing it ahead, hold off on cooking the pasta until you reheat the soup. Otherwise it will get mushy. Prepare the soup from step 2 through step 6 and chill. Cook and add the pasta when you reheat the soup, just before serving.
Freezing: Pasta e fagioli freezes beautifully and will keep for up to 3 months in a sealed freezer-friendly container. For best results, prepare the soup from step 2 through step 6 and freeze it (without the pasta). Cook the pasta when you reheat the soup and add it in just before serving.
- Prep Time: 10 min
- Cook Time: 30 min
- Category: Soup
- Method: simmer
- Cuisine: Italian
Keywords: pasta and bean soup, Italian pasta and bean soup
Ok, this recipe is absolutely fantastic! The picture looked so great I just had to try it, and if I might say so, I totally nailed it (it was super easy to follow the steps). My wife and I both went back for seconds and it was all I could do to not go back for thirds. I honestly can't wait to make it again!
Hey Edgar, Thanks for your kind words and for taking the time to leave a rating and comment. i'm so happy you and your wife enjoyed the pasta fagioli!
Hi Lisa, this sounds wonderful, thanks again for sharing your knowledge. Usually I test recipes before offering them to my people, but this time I’m going for it, this recipe seems like it can’t miss. Question, can I omit the pancetta?
Hi Barbara - I'm glad you're going for it! Yes, you can omit the pancetta but I suggest you add a few additional tablespoons of the olive oil to the sautéed veggies and you may also need to add additional salt and parmesan, to compensate for the lack of pancetta. Enjoy!
Thanks as always Lisa
This looks so comforting and delicious! Thank you Lisa. I can't wait to make this.
Thanks so much Liz 🙂 keep me posted if you make it!
You say to paa additional parmesan cheese, but I can find when you put it in the soup the first time! When do you add the 1/3 cup?
Hi Linda. Sorry for any confusion. If you look at the last step in the recipe - step #8 - that’s where it says to add the cheese. The cheese is added when the soup is served and then I suggest passing around more cheese. I hope you enjoy this soup!