Please welcome Hank as he shares a simple Italian classic, pasta e fagioli, or pasta and bean soup. Perfect for Lent if you swap the chicken stock out for veg stock! ~Elise
Pasta fazool. I knew—and loved—this dish years before I knew how to spell it. Growing up in New Jersey, pasta e fagioli is a staple on every red sauce place’s menu, along with spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, alfredo and cannolis. Fazool (which is Neapolitan dialect for the standard Italian word for “beans”) is a peasant dish, a just simple soup of pasta and beans and veggies.
It’s also a dish of a thousand variations. Some cooks’ pasta e fagioli is so thick it’s basically a pasta dish. Some people use so much tomato the fazool looks like a tomato soup with pasta and beans. Sometimes you’ll see white beans, sometimes borlotti beans (basically the same thing as cranberry beans), and sometimes even kidney beans. Once in a while you’ll see meat, either leftover bits of meatloaf or tiny meatballs, like the ones you see in Italian wedding soup.
This version is more of a chicken soup with beans and pasta and a little tomato. You can add more tomato if you’d like. I will often drizzle a little good olive oil over the soup at the end, or grate some parmesan cheese over it.
One thing to remember about this soup: Because it has pasta in it, you either need to eat it all at one sitting, or resign yourself to the fact that the pasta will continue to absorb the soup as it rests in the fridge. So the next day it will be thicker, almost like a French potage. Still good, but different.
Pasta e Fagioli Recipe
Ditalini pasta is commonly used for pasta e fagioli, but you can use any short pasta — or you can break up vermicelli into small bits.
- 3 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
- 1 large celery stalk, chopped
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 1/4 teaspoon chile flakes
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 6 cups chicken or vegetable stock for vegetarian option
- 5-6 small peeled tomatoes, broken to pieces (about 1 cup)
- 1/2 pound ditalini pasta
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 1/2 cups of freshly cooked beans*)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Salt and black pepper to taste
* To cook the beans from scratch, start with 1 3/4 cups dry beans. Either soak them overnight in water, or cover them with boiling water and let them sit for an hour, then drain. Place the soaked beans in a pot, cover with two inches of water, bring to a simmer, and cook until tender, about an hour.
1 Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Saute the onion, carrot and celery for 2-3 minutes, until its soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chile flakes and Italian seasoning and saute another minute.
2 Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and keep the soup at a strong simmer.
3 When the pasta is al dente, add the beans and cook another 2-3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Add salt and black pepper to taste.