Pasta e Fagioli Soup
A classic Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli is a satisfying dish that will warm your body and your soul! Pasta, beans, pancetta and veggies are embraced by a flavorful tomato broth, making this soup a meal in itself.
If you’re a fan of authentic Italian recipes, make sure to also check out my Bolognese Pasta, Chicken Cacciatore and Amaretti Cookies.
A satisfying recipe for pasta fagioli soup!
Growing up, my grandmother would often make a soup with short pasta and beans as a way of using leftover beans.
Hearty and filling, we would gobble it up until we saw the bottom of the bowl. And instead of stopping there, we would use bread to soak up whatever liquid was left until that bowl was shining like new!
It was only later in life that I discovered that what I thought was a recipe created out of my grandma’s frugality was actually an adaptation of Pasta e Fagioli, a staple of Italian cuisine.
One of these days, I’ll share her recipe. But today we are going to talk all about the Italian version!
What is Pasta e Fagioli?
Pasta e Fagioli – pronounced “pasta e fah-dgioh-lee – is a traditional Italian soup made of pasta (pasta) and beans (fagioli).
It is sometimes called pasta fazool (or fasul) in the US, derived from its Neapolitan name pasta e fasule.
Is Pasta e Fagioli an authentic Italian soup?
Yes, this soup is made all over Italy!
Since pasta and beans were inexpensive, this originally peasant dish was a great way to feed large families. Back then, it was a meal that was prepared at home, for your family, and not one you would make for guests.
Nowadays, however, this hearty soup is widely popular and can be seen in restaurant menus.
What is the difference between Pasta e Fagioli and Minestrone?
They are both brothy Italian soups that contain pasta.
However, while beans are mandatory in Pasta e Fagioli, they are not always present in Minestrone.
Minestrone is primarily a vegetable soup, and has more veggies than Pasta e Fagioli, including zucchini and green beans.
What you’ll need to buy:
- 8 ounces cranberry beans
- 4 ounces pancetta – You can buy the kind that comes already diced or just chop it yourself.
- 1 medium onion
- 1 leek
- 4 cloves garlic
- 2 carrots
- 2 celery stalks
- fresh thyme
- fresh basil
- 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes – preferably San Marzano
- 1 tube or can tomato paste
- 1 carton chicken broth
- 1 package ditalini pasta
- 1 block parmesan cheese
Ingredients I’m assuming you already have in your pantry. But, if not, make sure to buy them as well!
- Olive oil
- Black pepper
- Bay leaves
What kind of beans are in Pasta e Fagioli?
There are as many Pasta e Fagioli recipes as there as cooks in Italy, so naturally, you will find that it varies a lot.
I’ve seen it made with kidney beans, cannellini or a combination.
However, during a recent trip to Italy, I saw “pasta e fagioli” kits being sold at convenience stores. The kits included dried pasta, spices and dried Borlotti beans, which are known as cranberry beans or Roman beans here in the US.
Cranberry beans are creamy and tender, with a chestnut-like flavor, making it the perfect addition to this soup!
However, if you can’t find them, you may use cannellini, kidney or even pinto beans instead.
Can I use canned beans?
Yes, you can.
I usually prefer cooking my beans from scratch, as I find that they taste better that way. But if you prefer the convenience of just opening a can, go for it!
You can also use leftover beans, if you have them.
How to Make Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Let me start by saying that while you can take a shortcut and use canned beans, you can’t cook the pasta in the soup.
I know, I know. Believe me, I tried! The results were gummy, slimy pasta and a broth that was too starchy.
So you will have to cook the pasta separately, drain and add it only at the end, right before serving, so you don’t risk overcooking it. The ditalini should be al dente!
Same thing goes for the beans. If you are cooking the beans from dry, be careful not to overcook them. They should be tender, but not mushy!
Recommended equipment/tools: Dutch Oven, cheese grater, wooden spoon.
Here’s how I make this bean soup. As always, you will find the printable (and more complete) version of the recipe at the end of this post!
- Cook the beans. Combine the dry beans, bay leaves and water in a large pot or Dutch Oven. Cook until the beans are tender. (If using canned beans, skip this step.)
- Sauté the pancetta until golden brown. Remove and reserve.
Sauté the veggies. Cook the onion, leek, carrots, celery and garlic until softened.
- Add thyme, reserved pancetta, crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, broth, parmesan rind, salt and pepper. Stir to combine and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Add the cooked beans and the cook pasta to the soup.
- Stir grated parmesan cheese. Garnish with chopped basil and serve.
|Olivia’s Tip: Adding the parmesan rind to the soup infuses the broth with lots of flavor!|
What to serve with Pasta and Beans Soup?
This soup already contains all you would want in a meal: meat (pancetta), veggies, beans and pasta.
However, some crusty bread is a must, so your guests can soak up all the delicious broth! Extra parmesan cheese and freshly grated black pepper are also mandatory. Yum!
How long will it keep?
This soup, while best enjoyed freshly made, will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days, if stored in an airtight container.
The pasta will absorb the liquid as it sits, so when you are ready to reheat, make sure to have extra broth (or water) on hand. Gently warm over medium-low heat, adding the liquid until the soup is warm and back to its original consistency.
Can I freeze this soup?
Pasta fagioli would be the perfect candidate for a freezer-friendly recipe, if it weren’t for the pasta. Pasta doesn’t freeze well and gets mushy when thawed and reheated.
If you must freeze, I’d do it before adding the pasta. Then, add the cooked pasta directly to the reheated soup and serve!
Pasta e Fagioli Soup
- 8 ounces about 1 1/4 cups dry cranberry beans (see notes)
- 2 bay leaves
- About 4 cups chicken broth
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced
- 1 medium onion, chopped
- 1 leek, rinsed and chopped (white and light green parts only)
- 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
- 2 celery stalks, finely diced
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- A few sprigs of thyme, leaves only
- 1 14oz can crushed tomatoes (preferably San Marzano)
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 parmesan rind
- Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups ditalini pasta
- 1 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
- 1/4 cup basil leaves, thinly sliced
- In a large heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch Oven, combine the beans, bay leaves and 2 quarts (8 cups) of water. Bring to a boil, over medium high heat, then lower the heat to a simmer and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
- Using a colander set over a bowl, drain the beans, collecting the broth into the bowl. Add chicken stock to complete 6 cups of liquid. Reserve the broth and the beans.
- Wipe down the pot and bring it back to the stove, over medium heat. Heat the olive oil and sauté the pancetta until golden brown. Remove and place in a paper towel-lined plate to soak up the excess grease. Reserve.
- Add the onion, leek, carrot and celery, sautéing until softened, about 5 minutes. Then, stir in the minced garlic and cook for a minute or two, or until fragrant.
- Stir in the thyme leaves and cook for about a minute.
- Add the pancetta back into the pot. Then, add the crushed tomatoes, tomato paste, parmesan rind, reserved broth, salt and pepper.
- Cover, lower the heat to medium-low and simmer for 10 to 15 minutes.
- In the meantime, cook the pasta separately, according to package instructions.
- Add reserved beans and cooked pasta to the soup.
- Stir in the grated parmesan cheese. Taste for seasoning and adjust salt and pepper.
- Stir in the sliced basil, reserving some for garnishing.
- Garnish with basil and fresh thyme. Serve immediately.
Using canned beans:If using canned beans, skip steps 1 and 2. You will have to increase the amount of chicken broth.
- Cranberry beans – Small kidney beans or cannellini can be used instead.
- Pancetta – Bacon works as well.
- Ditalini pasta – Substitute for pipettes, elbows, mini farfalle, or orzo.