Pasta, Soups

Grandma’s Pasta e Fagioli

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Pasta e fagioli is a classic Italian soup made with beans and pasta; this peasant dish is the ultimate comfort food to lift you up on wintery days. 

Pasta e Fagioli is nothing more than what is commonly known in the US as pasta fazool. This dish originated in Venice but is widely consumed in every Italian region with some variations. 

Any Italian household has its version of this hearty soup; Neapolitan and Roman versions are made with guanciale or pancetta, in Puglia with mussels, and mountain areas with mushrooms. 

LET’S TALK ABOUT BEANS:

Beans are a huge source of protein, fiber, and many other minerals; combined with pasta and meat, it makes a wonderfully nutritious meal.   

Italian pasta e fagioli is made using cranberry beans. Still, there are wide varieties of beans with different colors, shapes, and tastes that you can choose from if a substitute is needed or to combine with, like:

Cannellini beans: A white-colored Italian bean used for another Italian soup, “ribollita Toscana.”

Red kidney beans: They have a vibrant red color and creamy and tender texture.

Navy beans: A white oval-shaped beans with a starchy and nutty interior.

Pinto beans: Orangy-pink color with a creamy interior and earthy flavor, are often used to make “refried beans.”

Black beans: Typically used in Mexican or Brazilian cuisine, they have a smooth texture and mild flavor.

And many others.  

INGREDIENTS TO MAKE AUTHENTIC GRANDMA’S PASTA E FAGIOLI:

Beans: Traditionally, this soup is made using “Borlotti beans” in the US, called cranberry beans. Dried beans are way better; however, you can choose the canned version to reduce prep time.

Pasta: Small pasta shapes are ideal for this recipe: the first choice is ditalini pasta; a tiny small tube, in alternative small-sized elbow macaroni or small shells, also works nicely.

Vegetables: A mix of chopped white onion, carrot, celery stalk, and garlic cloves.

Herbs & spices: I like to use a lot of fresh herbs and spices when I cook. For this soup, I used: sage, bay leaves, rosemary, thyme, red pepper flakes, and smoked paprika.

Tomato: A couple of tablespoons of tomato paste adds a nice burst of flavor to the soup, or you can also use tomato sauce. 

Pancetta: Pancetta is a cut of pork belly cured but not smoked; sauteing for a few minutes adds a beautiful flavor. It can be substituted for thick-cut bacon or removed if you’re vegetarian. 

Parmesan: Add leftover parmesan rind to the boiling soup and grated parmesan on top before serving.

HOW TO MAKE GRANDMA’S PASTA E FAGIOLI: 

STEP 1: 

Place the beans on a colander and rinse them well; discard the broken ones and any dirt. Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with water. Let the beans soak overnight on the counter. In summer, place them in the refrigerator. 

STEP 2:  

Strain the beans, discard the soaking water, and place them in a large pot. Cover with water, and add sage, rosemary, and one garlic clove. 

Put on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Dry beans can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to be fully cooked (depending on the type of beans and how long you’ve soaked them). Check their doneness after 45 minutes. If you can easily squish them with a fork, they are ready. Drain the beans but this time, save the cooking water. 

STEP 3: 

Transfer half of the beans to a blender jar or container if using an immersion blender, add some cooking liquid, and blitz until smooth; set it aside.

STEP 4:   

In the same pot, add extra-virgin olive oil, chopped vegetables, and herbs, and turn on the stove to low heat. Sautee for 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, and cook until the vegetables are tender.

Add pancetta cut into cubes, and cook until nice and crispy. Next, add tomato paste and smoked paprika, and cook for another minute. 

STEP 5:  

Adjust the stove to medium heat, add the blended beans and 2 cups of their cooking water, stir with a wooden spoon, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil; taste for salt, and add more if necessary. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, occasionally stirring to avoid sticking it to the bottom of the pot (if the liquid reduces too much, add more of the beans cooking liquid). Then put in the whole beans and combine. 

STEP 6: 

Remove the pot from the stove, and serve immediately in the soup bowl. Finish it with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, parmesan cheese, and a piece of garlic bread.

HOW TO STORE GRANDMA’S PASTA E FAGIOLI:

When completely cooled off, store leftover soup in an airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator. 

To freeze it, I like to put it in individual-sized containers; when needed, I let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

FAQ: 

What’s the difference between grandma’s pasta e fagioli vs. pasta fazool? 

They are the same dish; bean soup.”Pasta fazool,” as it is commonly known in the United States, means pasta e fagioli in the Neapolitan dialect.

Is pasta e fagioli vegan?  

Pasta e fagioli can be easily made vegan omitting the pancetta and parmesan cheese.

Can pasta e fagioli be made gluten-free?  

Substitute regular pasta for a gluten-free pasta brand.  

Can I use canned beans for pasta e fagioli?  

You can make pasta e fagioli with any canned beans.  

Can I make bean soup without soaking the beans? 

It is possible to cook beans without previously soaking them, but they will take a long time to cook, at least 3 hours. 

What can I add to pasta fagioli soup to give it more flavor? 

Italian grandmas have always been very creative in recycling every ingredient, letting nothing go to waste. Nowadays, we have plenty of versions of this bean soup, and some of my favorite variations are with dried porcini mushroom, mussels or clams, or leftover roasted chicken. 

Is minestrone the same as pasta fagioli?  

Minestrone, translated as “big soup,” is another famous Italian soup. The main difference is that minestrone contains a lot of different vegetables like kale, broccoli, cabbage, zucchini, etc., and may or may not have beans. Pasta e fagioli is made mainly with beans, pasta, and just a tiny portion of veggies like onions, carrots, and celery.

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PASTA E FAGIOLI

Grandma’s pasta e fagioli

5 from 2 votes
Print Pin Rate
Course: Soup
Cuisine: Italian
Keyword: pasta and beans, pasta e fagioli
Prep Time: 2 hours
Servings: 6 People
Calories: 477kcal
Author: Luca Frau

Ingredients

  • 450 g dry or canned cranberry beans
  • 60 g olive oil
  • 200 g white onion
  • 100 g celery stalk
  • 100 g carrot
  • 150 g pancetta or bacon
  • 2 tbsp tomato paste
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 250 g short cut pasta like ditalini
  • rosemary,bay leaves
  • kosher salt to taste
  • black pepper to taste
  • parmesan to taste

Instructions

STEP 1:

  • Place the beans on a colander and rinse them well; discard the broken ones and any dirt. Place the beans in a large pot and cover them with double water. Let the beans soak overnight on the counter. In summer, place them in the refrigerator.

STEP 2:

  • Strain the beans, discard the soaking water, and place them in a large pot. Cover with water, and add sage, rosemary, and one garlic clove.
  • Put on the stove and bring it to a simmer. Dry beans can take anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours to be fully cooked (depending on the type of beans and how long you’ve soaked them). Check their doneness after 45 minutes. If you can easily squish them with a fork, they are ready. Drain the beans but this time, save the cooking water.

STEP 3:

  • Transfer half of the beans to a blender jar or container if using an immersion blender, add some cooking liquid, and blitz until smooth; set it aside.

STEP 4:

  • In the same pot, add extra-virgin olive oil, chopped vegetables, and herbs, and turn on the stove to low heat. Sautee for 5 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon, and cook until the vegetables are tender. Add pancetta cut into cubes, and cook until nice and crispy. Next, add tomato paste and smoked paprika, and cook for another minute.

STEP 5:

  • Adjust the stove to medium heat, add the blended beans and 2 cups of their cooking water, stir with a wooden spoon, cover with a lid, and bring to a boil; taste for salt, and add more if necessary. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, occasionally stirring to avoid sticking it to the bottom of the pot (if the liquid reduces too much, add more of the beans cooking liquid). Then put in the whole beans and combine.

STEP 6:

  • Remove the pot from the stove, and serve immediately in the soup bowl. Finish it with a drizzle of olive oil, freshly cracked black pepper, parmesan cheese, and a piece of garlic bread.

Notes

STORAGE INSTRUCTIONS: 

When completely cooled off, store leftover soup in an airtight container for up to five days in the refrigerator. 
To freeze it, I like to put it in individual-sized containers; when needed, I let them thaw overnight in the refrigerator.

Nutrition

Serving: 175g | Calories: 477kcal | Carbohydrates: 56g | Protein: 17g | Fat: 21g | Saturated Fat: 5g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 3g | Monounsaturated Fat: 12g | Trans Fat: 0.03g | Cholesterol: 17mg | Sodium: 237mg | Potassium: 640mg | Fiber: 10g | Sugar: 4g | Vitamin A: 3115IU | Vitamin C: 5mg | Calcium: 70mg | Iron: 3mg
Tried this recipe?Mention @cheflucafrau or tag #cheflucafrau!

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3 Comments

  1. Pingback: Sopranos Sunday Gravy and Meatballs  - Chef Luca Frau

  2. 5 stars
    Delicious! I love the addition of bacon very yummy

  3. 5 stars
    Finally, an authentic recipe for pasta e fagioli! I saw most of the recipes online using too much tomato sauce, this is exactly how my mon used to make it! Thank you

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