Apr 7, 2020

Pasta e Fagioli

Prep Time: 5 mins
Cook Time: 1 hr
The name of this dish is quite literal, as it translates from Italian to “pasta and beans”. It originated as a peasant dish, since it uses just a few humble ingredients relying on beans and pasta as the filler for a hearty meal.

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A sofrito base (the Italian term referring to mirepoix or carrots, celery and onions) is sautéed to develop a fragrant base for this “brothy” soup filled with cranberry beans, pancetta and pasta. The name of this dish, pasta e fagioli, is quite literal, as it translates from Italian to “pasta and beans”. It originated as a peasant dish, since it uses just a few humble ingredients relying on beans and pasta as the filler for a hearty meal.

Pasta e Fagioli

Key Ingredients in This Recipe

  • Cranberry beans – Cranberry beans get their name for their appearance – white with splotches of pink all over which sadly don’t remain through the cooking process. They’re a rich and creamy bean but are not always readily available. If you can’t find cranberry beans use another white bean like Great Northern beans or Cannellini beans.
  • Pancetta – Pancetta comes from pork belly and is salted, seasoned, cured and aged for an extended period of time. Pancetta is similar to bacon in flavor though not as smokey. Many recipes for pasta e fagioli use ground beef or sausage though I like the flavor the pancetta provides.
  • Pasta – Small pasta shapes work well in this recipe. Remember they expand as they cook so you don’t want to add too much or else the soup will become dry. I use small shells in this recipe though others like orzo or ditalini, small tube shapes, also work well. The pasta cooks in the broth and absorbs that flavor.
  • Sofrito – The vegetables that are sautéed as the base of the soup to create a flavorful foundation are carrots, celery and onion. This combination is referred to as sofrito in Italian and is often called a mirepoix in French.
  • Kale – I use Tuscan kale in this recipe though curly kale or Swiss chard work well too. I always remove the tough ribs from kale before adding it to recipes.
  • Chicken stock – Chicken stock is typically made from chicken bones as well as aromatics and vegetables while chicken broth is made with the meat. How does that affect their flavor? Chicken stock has a much richer, more robust flavor which comes from the collagen released from the simmering bones. On the other hand, chicken broth is much more mellow in flavor. I typically use chicken stock when cooking. In a pinch the chicken stock can be substituted with water though it takes away some of the flavor.

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How to Make Pasta e Fagioli

  1. Soak the dry beans. Soak cranberry bean in a medium bowl covered with water overnight.
  2. Cook the pancetta. Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown all over but not hard, about 6 minutes.
  3. Sauté the vegetables. Then add the carrot, celery and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender about an additional 6 minutes. Add the garlic continuing to sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about an additional 30 seconds.
  4. Stir in the liquids. Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, 4 cups of water and bay leaves.
  5. Add the beans and simmer. Drain the beans then add to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil then lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  6. Add the dry pasta. Add the kale and pasta, stirring to combine and cooking until the pasta is just al dente and the kale has wilted, about 6 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook in the hot broth.
  7. Serve. Ladle the soup into soup bowls and top with grated Parmesan. If the pasta soaks up too much of your broth, just add an additional cup of water.

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Tips and Tricks for This Recipe

  • These heirloom beans can be subbed for another small white bean, as the soup is traditionally made from cannellini beans or Great Northern beans.
  • I prefer to use dried beans in this recipe since canned beans often break down more in the cooking process.
  • For a vegetarian alternative, omit the pancetta and substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock.
  • If the pasta absorbs too much of the broth as it cooks, add more broth or water. This can also happen as the soup sits.
  • If you don’t soak the dry beans ahead of time you will need to add additional cooking time to the soup.

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Other Recipes to Try

If you enjoy this recipe, I recommend checking out some of these:

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Pasta e Fagoli

Print Pin
Prep Time 5 mins
Cook Time 1 hr
Serves 6

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried cranberry beans
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 carrot, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 medium yellow onion, diced
  • 5 ounces diced pancetta
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1 15-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 4 cups chicken stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch Tuscan kale, roughly chopped
  • ½ pound small pasta like ditalini shell or elbow
  • Freshly grated Parmesan cheese, for serving

Instructions:

  • Soak cranberry bean in a medium bowl covered with water overnight.
  • Heat a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat, add the olive oil and heat through. Add the pancetta and cook until golden brown all over but not hard, about 6 minutes.
  • Then add the carrot, celery and onion and sauté, stirring occasionally, until tender about an additional 6 minutes. Add the garlic continuing to sauté until the garlic is fragrant, about an additional 30 seconds.
  • Add the tomatoes, chicken stock, 4 cups of water and bay leaves.
  • Drain the beans then add to the pot and bring the mixture to a boil then lower heat to medium-low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 1 hour.
  • Add the kale and pasta, stirring to combine and cooking until the pasta is just al dente and the kale has wilted, about 6 minutes. The pasta will continue to cook in the hot broth.
  • Ladle the soup into soup bowls and top with grated Parmesan. If the pasta soaks up too much of your broth, just add an additional cup of water.

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