Pasta Fagioli: An Italian Staple
Pasta e fagioli, or just pasta fagioli. 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.
Pasta fagioli, aka pasta fazool (which is Neapolitan dialect for the standard Italian word for "beans"), is a peasant dish, a simple soup of pasta and beans and veggies.
Variations of Pasta Fagioli
It's also a dish of a thousand variations. Some cooks make a pasta e fagioli that's 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.
My Pasta Fagioli
This pasta fagioli 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.
Pasta Tip for Pasta Fagioli
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. (Also because of the pasta, this soup doesn't freeze very well.)
Which Types of Pasta Can You Use in Pasta Fagioli?
Ditalini is commonly used in this soup, but other small pasta shapes can be used. Try one of these other pastas.
- Elbow macaroni
- Vermicelli broken into small bits
How Can I Thicken My Pasta Fagioli?
Pasta Fagioli does not have to be thick, but if you enjoy your soup thick, there are several ways you can make it thicker.
- Remove 1/2 cup of beans after the soup is fully cooked, puree them, and add them back into the soup.
- Cook the pasta in the soup and the starch from the pasta will help thicken the soup.
- Simmer the soup with the lid off for an hour after it's fully cooked and allow some of the liquid to evaporate. Check every 15 minutes to make sure too much liquid is not evaporating.
- Simply allow the soup to rest overnight in the refrigerator. The beans will continue to absorb liquid as they chill, and the soup will naturally thicken.
How to Make Vegetarian Pasta Fagioli
To make this pasta fagioli recipe vegetarian, choose vegetable stock instead of chicken stock. No other changes are necessary.
Can You Freeze Pasta Fagioli?
You can freeze this soup, but when it's defrosted the pasta will have broken down some and have a different - and not very appealing - texture. If you want to freeze some of this soup, or any other soup with pasta such as minestrone, do not cook the pasta in the soup. Cook it separately and add it to the soup right before serving. That way, whatever portion you freeze will not have pasta in it, and cooked pasta can be added after this soup has been defrosted and reheated.
More Easy Soups for Chilly Weather
Pasta e Fagioli
- 3 tablespoons extra virgin 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 chili flakes
- 1 teaspoon Italian seasoning
- 6 cups chicken (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian option)
- 1 cup chopped peeled tomatoes, fresh or canned
- 1/2 pound ditalini pasta
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini or borlotti beans, drained and rinsed (or 3 1/2 cups freshly cooked beans)
- 1/4 cup chopped parsley
- Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Sauté the vegetables:
Heat the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Sauté the onion, carrot and celery for 2 to 3 minutes, until its soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chili flakes and Italian seasoning and sauté another minute.
Add stock, tomatoes, pasta:
Add the chicken stock and tomatoes and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and keep the soup at a strong simmer.
Add beans, parsley:
When the pasta is al dente, add the beans and cook another 2 to 3 minutes. Turn off the heat and stir in the parsley. Add salt and black pepper to taste.