The Italians have graced us with countless delicious recipes. This is indisputable! I’ve loved pizza and spaghetti for as long as I can remember, of course, but I’ve only recently discovered pasta e fagioli.
Pasta e fagioli translates to “pasta and beans.” Pasta and beans may not sound terribly enticing (unless you’re me), but I assure you that this Italian stew is truly irresistible.
Lots of aromatics, crushed tomatoes, fresh parsley and Tuscan kale turn pasta and beans into a hearty meal-in-a-bowl situation. I can’t claim that this recipe is 100 percent authentic, but it’s the best I can do.
I designed this pasta e fagioli recipe to make use of canned beans, so this stew is ready in about an hour! I bet you have most of the ingredients in your kitchen already. It’s an excellent candidate for a relaxed weeknight.
How to Make the Best Pasta e Fagioli
How do we turn basic ingredients into something magical? The trick is in the method. You’ll find the full recipe below, but here’s a rundown with some extra reasoning behind it:
- First, we’ll cook chopped onion, celery and carrot in olive oil until tender. We won’t cook them long enough to form a true soffritto, but they form the backbone of flavor in this dish nonetheless.
- Then, we’ll add garlic and cook just long enough to take the edge off (there’s nothing worse than burnt garlic flavor, and it’ll have plenty of time to continue cooking as we simmer the soup). Next, add crushed tomatoes and let them come to a healthy simmer—I’m convinced cooking canned tomatoes turns them from tinny to vibrant.
- We’ll pour in one quart of vegetable broth and a few cups water. The water adds volume without additional sodium. We’re cooking the pasta in the liquid, so we need plenty of it, but I’m getting ahead of myself. We’ll season the soup with bay leaves, dried oregano, and red pepper flakes, and cook for ten minutes to bring it all together.
- I want to say that the blending step is optional (and if you don’t have a blender, you can certainly skip it), but—this step is what produces the luscious, creamy-yet-cream-less texture you see here. All we do is scoop out some of the hot liquid and blend it with a portion of the beans. Pour it back in, and your soup has been transformed.
- Almost done! We’ll add the remaining beans, plus the pasta, kale and parsley. We’ll cook until the pasta and kale are tender.
- The final step, once we’ve removed the soup from the heat, is to add even more flavor with a tablespoon each of fresh lemon juice and olive oil. Taste it before and after (carefully!) and you’ll understand what a difference this makes.
Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta and Beans)Course: StewCuisine: Italian
Pasta e fagioli means “pasta and beans” in Italian—this recipe is much more than that! This hearty vegetarian stew is full of irresistible fresh flavor. It’s vegan, too, as long as you don’t top it with cheese. Recipe yields 6 bowls or 8 cups of soup.
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium-to-large yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, scrubbed clean, finely chopped
2 ribs celery, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon fine sea salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 can (15 ounces) crushed tomatoes*
4 cups vegetable broth
3 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes, omit if sensitive to spice
2 cans (15 ounces each) cannellini beans, Great Northern beans, or chickpeas, rinsed and drained (or 3 cups cooked beans)
1 cup (about 4 ounces) cavatelli, ditalini, elbow or small shell pasta of choice
2 cups chopped Tuscan kale (tough ribs removed first), or chard or collard greens
¼ cup finely chopped Italian parsley
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice (about ½ medium lemon)
Optional garnishes: Additional chopped parsley, black pepper, grated Parmesan cheese or light drizzle of olive oil
- In a large Dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat, warm 3 tablespoons of the olive oil until shimmering. Add the chopped onion, carrot, celery, ½ teaspoon of the salt, and about 10 twists of black pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and the onions are turning translucent, about 6 to 10 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, stir, and cook until the tomatoes are bubbling all over. Add the broth, water, bay leaves, oregano, and red pepper flakes.
- Raise the heat to medium-high and bring the mixture to a simmer. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, and reducing the heat as necessary to maintain a gentle simmer.
- Use a heat-safe measuring cup to transfer about 1 ½ cups of the soup (avoiding the bay leaves) to a blender. Add about ¾ cup of the drained beans. Securely fasten the lid and blend until completely smooth, being careful to avoid hot steam escaping from the lid. Pour the blended mixture back into the soup.
- Add the remaining beans, pasta, kale and parsley to the simmering soup. Continue cooking, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot, for about 20 minutes, or until the pasta and greens are pleasantly tender.
- Remove the pot from the heat, then remove and discard the bay leaves. Stir in the lemon juice, the remaining tablespoon of olive oil, and remaining ¼ teaspoon salt. Taste and season with more salt (I usually add another ¼ teaspoon) and pepper until the flavors really sing. Garnish bowls of soup as desired, and serve.
- Leftovers taste even better the next day. Allow leftover soup to cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate for up to 5 days. Or, freeze leftover soup in individual portions and defrost as necessary.
- *TOMATO RECOMMENDATION: I always use Muir Glen tomatoes, and used their fire-roasted crushed tomatoes since they don’t offer plain.
- MAKE IT GLUTEN FREE: Use a small, sturdy, gluten-free noodle, such as a corn and quinoa blend.
- MAKE IT DAIRY FREE/VEGAN: Don’t add cheese. Simple as that.
- IF YOU DON’T HAVE A STAND BLENDER: You can use an immersion blender to blend (carefully) a portion of the liquid with the beans in a separate (heat-safe) container. Or, skip this step altogether. Your soup will be a little more chunky and less creamy, but still very good.