Pasta e Fagioli soup is an Italian classic for a reason. It’s delicious and satisfying, not to mention is so cheap to make!
I’ve been living off soups this winter. I am not the biggest fan of soup for dinner but I loving having a steaming bowl of it for lunch.
It’s healthy but also filling and very affordable. No wonder our mothers and grandmothers made soups so frequently. They knew how to live frugally.
The soup I am sharing today is an Italian classic. It definitely falls in the ‘cucina povera’ category, meaning ‘poor cooking’. It used to be a staple of the common people but the taste is far from plain! Who would’ve thought that a simple combination of pasta, beans and a few vegetables can create such beauty!
What is Pasta e Fagioli?
First of all, pasta e fagioli or pasta fazool? Well, the answer is both. The names refer to the same dish but the latter comes from the Sicilian dialect. It became more widespread in the US because of a large proportion of the Italian immigrants came from Sicily.
This beautiful sounding name simply means “pasta and beans”. The historic dish is popular in all regions of Italy although each of them would have a slightly different spin on the recipe.
What Beans to Use
As much as Italians are a pasta loving nation, the central ingredient of this soup is beans, not pasta! Traditionally dried borlotti beans are used, however I used canned beans and dramatically cut the cooking time!
Although everyone seems to agree on the beans, the pasta shapes used in this recipe vary! Any small shaped pasta will do. I used elbow macaroni but you can use ditalini, orzo, pasta shells or even broken spaghetti.
Recipe Tips and Notes
- Let’s start with the base of this dish, which is pancetta or prosciutto. Just a very small amount flavours this soup beautifully. You can remove it to make vegetarian but it truly makes a huge difference to the flavour.
- Next up is soffritto. Onions, carrots and celery cut into a small, uniform dice. The same base as we see in the famous Bolognese Sauce. Many American recipes cut the vegetables into large chunks but try cutting them smaller and sauteing in olive oil until truly softened and you will see a tremendous difference in taste!
- I added fresh rosemary to the soffritto as well but you can also use dried rosemary or thyme.
- If you have Parmesan cheese rinds to spare, add them to the broth. Instead of throwing them out, you can put them to good use and infuse your soup with a gorgeous flavour.
- Finally, to make your soup thicker, almost stew-like, process a portion of your soup in a blender before adding the pasta, then return back to the pot and stir. Some people add diced potato to this soup for the same reason but I left it out.
- Cook the pasta al dente because it will only get softer as it sits in the soup. If you want to make this soup a day ahead, prepare everything but the pasta. On the day of serving bring the soup to a boil, then add the pasta and cook according to package instructions.
- Serve with grated Parmesan and fresh parsley.
Favourite Soup Recipes with Pasta or Noodles:
- Italian Wedding Soup
- Creamy Chicken Bacon Gnocchi Soup
- Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup
- Udon Noodle Soup
Pasta e Fagioli
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 50g/1/4 cup pancetta or prosciutto diced
- 1 onion
- 1 carrot
- 1 stalk celery
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or thyme or ½ tsp dried
- 1 litre/4 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1-2 Parmesan rinds for flavour optional
- 2 bay leaves
- 125ml/1/2 cup tomato passata or crushed tomatoes
- salt to taste
- 800g/28 oz canned borlotti beans with liquid 470g drained weight
- 150g/1 cup small pasta (I used macaroni)
- 1 tbsp parsley chopped
- 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese for garnish
- Dice the pancetta finely, then fry in the olive oil until the fat renders. Add in chopped onion, finely diced carrot and celery and cook for 5-7 minutes over low heat until the onions are softened, add minced garlic and chopped rosemary and cook for 30 seconds longer.
- Pour in the vegetable stock, Parmesan rinds if using, and stir to combine, then add the bay leaves, the canned beans with the liquid and tomato passata, add a pinch of salt and bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Then remove ⅓ of the soup and process in the blender, add back to the pot and stir to combine.
- Add the pasta and cook according to the package instructions, approximately for 7-8 minutes. It should be al dente. Add more seasoning if needed. Serve topped with chopped parsley and Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of good quality olive oil.