Pasta and beans (pasta e fagioli) is a typical dish of traditional Italian cuisine made with short pasta and beans. In this classic version we used ditalini pasta and borlotti beans, but the many Italian regional versions allow variations in the choice of the type of these two main ingredients.
Pasta and beans soup is a recipe that includes different variations and seasonings, based on regional origin. There are those who use ham, some lard and some still use rind (for the very famous variant of pasta and beans with pork rinds, Roman style). Among the aromatic herbs we have bay leaf, thyme, parsley, marjoram, rosemary. Speaking of tomatoes: you will find versions with tomato passata, tomato paste or with fresh tomatoes, such as the Neapolitan one. Finally, the beans: must be previously cooked. You can use canned beans, dried or fresh beans.
In any case, here is the most famous, easy-to-make pasta and beans recipe. At the end of this recipe you can find out how to make Italian pasta and bean soup with dried beans or fresh beans; these variants are longer to make but really excellent so keep reading!
Pasta and Beans Recipe: Ingredients
- 200 g (7 oz) of ditalini or small pasta of your choice
- 700 g (25 oz) COOKED borlotti beans (cranberry beans) or cannellini beans (white kidney beans). That is about 600 g of fresh beans or 300 g of dried beans or 3 cans of canned beans, rinsed and drained.
- 1 medium onion, finely chopped
- 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole
- 1 medium carrot, finely chopped
- 1 medium celery stalk, finely chopped
- 150 g (5 oz) of tomato passata
- 6 sage leaves
- 1 sprig of rosemary
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 liter of warm vegetable stock
- fine salt
- freshly ground black pepper to taste
- extra virgin olive oil
How to Make Pasta and Bean Soup: Directions
Step 1) – First thing first get ready with the beans, which have to be cooked separately. So you can use dried beans or fresh beans, cooking them following the instructions you find at the bottom of this recipe; or use canned beans, rinsed and drained, as long as they are of excellent quality (otherwise your pasta and beans will be crap!). When is all set with the beans, start to make the recipe. So get ready with the soffritto: dice carrot and celery, chop the onion and set aside.
Step 2) – Then in a large soup pot, sauté over medium heat in 6 tablespoons of the extra virgin olive oil, the garlic cloves (peeled and left whole), the sprig of rosemary and the sage leaves. When the garlic is golden (2/3 minutes), remove it from the soup pot; remove the sage and rosemary as well. TRICK: tilt the pot a little so that the garlic and aromatic herbs are submerged in oil. Keep the oil directly on the heat. In this way you can cook them more quickly and evenly.
GARLIC NOTE: Garlic is delicious and tastes very good but its aroma is really strong and it often covers other ingredients flavors. And that’a a pity. We prefer to flavor the oil with garlic and herbs and then remove them (if you leave the rosemary, when cooking, it loses all the needles that you then find in your mouth while you eat: not good. Sage also has a strong flavor when left to cook for a long time so remove it). But if you like you can leave it in the soup and remove it at the end, before serving, or chop/crush it and leave it inside.
Step 3) – Now add the chopped onion, carrot and celery you set aside. Cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat, stirring often, until the vegetables have softened and the onions are turning translucent. Then add the cooked beans, mix and let them flavor.
Step 4) – Add the tomato passata and stir.
Step 5) – Finally, pour in the hot broth and add the bay leaves. Mix and cook covered with a lid on medium heat for about 20 minutes. When the soup is cooked, add the fine salt to taste but pay ATTENTION: if the stock is already salted and the beans as well, maybe you need not to add salt. So just taste it before ruining it all.
Step 6) – Now transfer 3/4 ladles of the soup (avoiding the bay leaves) to a blender. Blend until completely smooth. Pour the blended mixture in a bowl and set aside.
Step 7) – Now add pasta to the simmering soup. Continue cooking until the pasta is cooked al dente (follow the cooking times described on the package). Stir often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot.
Step 8) – When the pasta is cooked, add the blended mixture, season with salt if necessary (taste it first!) and mix. As you can see, pasta and bean soup has become creamier.
All is done and ready! Serve pasta and beans with a sprinkling of freshly ground pepper and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
How to Use Dried Beans or Fresh Beans in Beans and Pasta Soup
The Italian tradition is rich with pasta and beans recipes, which depend on the region they belong to, but which are also transmitted from generation to generation. A recipe so loved that it is even found in a summer version, made with fresh beans.
All the variations, or at least those that respect tradition, have in common the choice of fresh or dried beans. Canned beans are used only in case you have little time to make this recipe.
If you use dried beans, you need to soak them for at least 12 hours so that they soften, while if you use fresh beans soaking is not necessary.
Now let’s see how to do it:
Place the beans to soak for at least 12 hours, maybe the night before, then remove them from the water, rinse and transfer into a high and large pot; cover the beans with cold water, add two sage leaves, a clove of garlic, 1 tablespoon of coarse salt and 1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil. Cook for 60-80 minutes, or until the beans are soft but still whole. When cooked, remove the garlic, sage and drain. Set the cooked beans aside and proceed with the recipe as described above.
Pasta and Beans: the Neapolitan Recipe
There’s a version of pasta e fagioli for just about every region in Italy, from brothy ones packed with vegetables to creamy ones made only with beans and pasta. But one variant is worth mentioning: the Neapolitan pasta and beans soup.
Pasta e fagioli is the Italian name for “pasta and beans” (en= beans/it=fagioli pronunciation [fah-jaw-lee]). It is often called “pasta fasul” or “fazool” in the United States, derived from the Neapolitan dialect name, “Past e Fasul”. It’s a warm and rich dish that has its roots in the poor peasant tradition; widespread especially in southern Italy and in particular in Naples.
Here the Neapolitan recipe:
Sautè 2 peeled cloves of garlic in 4 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Then add 4 fresh red San Marzano tomatoes, cut into 4 parts and a little chopped parsley. When cooked, remove the skin from the tomatoes and smash them a little with a fork.
Add the boiled beans and cook over medium heat for about 1 minute.
Add one glass of water and a pinch of salt, then cover with a lid and cook for about 10 minutes.
Finally add 1 glass of water, bring to a boil and then add the pasta. Cook the pasta al dente following the cooking times on the package. When ready, stir, season with salt if necessary and serve pasta and beans with a little bit of extra virgin olive oil on top.
Pasta and beans can be stored in the refrigerator for 1 day, in an airtight food container. The bean mixture without the pasta can be kept for 2-3 days, always in the refrigerator. Freezing is not recommended.