Craving something hearty, healthy and warm? Pasta e Fagiole (AKA pasta and beans) is the answer. Perfect for those dreary winter evenings when you want something fast and delicious, this soup comes together in no time, and it’s super adaptable. (As in, chop up whatever you’ve got in your crisper and throw it in the pot!)
Traditionally this soup is made from dried beans, but we’ve opted for canned beans for ease. Not only can we be sure that canned beans are cooked perfectly every time, but in this recipe we’re also using their canning liquid for added flavor. If you prefer dried beans—go for it! Just be sure to factor in added time for soaking the dried beans.
Beans aren’t the only variables you can play with in this recipe! Below, we’ll break down all the opportunities for substitutions and additions so you can make your Pasta e Fagioli the best it can be!
Onions, carrots, and celery (AKA mirepoix) provides the flavorful foundation from this soup, and many others. That doesn’t mean they have to be the only vegetables though! Root vegetables like parsnips, fennel, or turnips could also be thrown in at this stage to contribute added flavor and texture.
If you prefer more leafy greens in your soup, try kale, bok choy, or escarole. These can all be added around the same time as the pasta, that way they’ll have time to wilt but will still retain some bite. If you’d like to add more delicate greens like swiss chard or spinach, throw them in at the end. They’ll wilt in less than a minute when folded into the hot soup.
Traditionally this dish is made with Ditalini, a tiny, tube-shaped pasta. Generally, we prefer to stick to tradition and choose a smaller shape of pasta like ditalini, orecchiete, or even orzo. Pretty much any pasta you have lying around will do, but we’d stay away from longer noodles like spaghetti or fettuccine. (They’re better suited for dishes like garlic spaghetti and shrimp alfredo.)
Part of what makes our Pasta e Fagioli so hearty is the addition of sausage. It’s totally optional, though! If you’d prefer, start by crisping up some bacon or pancetta instead. When all the fat is rendered out, remove it from your pan to a paper towel lined plate and use the remaining fat to cook your vegetables. When your soup is fully prepared, top it with your crisped bacon/pancetta before serving. Chicken or shrimp would also be a great addition, just keep in mind they cook at different rates and would need to be added at different stages of cooking.
When it comes to broth, we have one rule: buy low sodium! Often store-bought broth is seasoned with an unnecessary amount of salt. Instead, we prefer to season ourselves. Remember, it’s a lot easier to fix an under-salted soup than an over-salted one.
Vegetable broth is also a perfectly good substitute if you’re going the vegetarian route. This soup is hearty enough without any meat, so feel free to substitute away! Small cubes of extra firm tofu would be a good addition as well if you’re looking for more protein.
Parm is the most traditional route for this dish, a little freshly grated on top before serving goes a long way. If you’re the type of person that saves parm rinds in the freezer, now’s the time to use ’em! They’ll add another dimension of richness and flavor that takes this soup to a whole other level.
Good parm is expensive. If you’re on a budget, try pecorino instead! It’s a delicious salty, nutty hard cheese, but with a lower price tag.
A good garnish can really make a soup. We top ours with cheese and parsley, but you can really go crazy with the toppings. Red pepper flakes, a squeeze of lemon, or even more herbs like basil or tarragon would also be delicious. Just make sure you’re adding something with a little brightness like herbs or citrus to give this hearty soup a boost of brightness. Buon appetitio!
2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 lb. spicy (or sweet) Italian sausage
1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, peeled and finely chopped
2 stalks celery, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
Freshly ground black pepper
2 (15-oz.) cans Great Northern Beans
1 (15-oz.) can diced tomatoes
4 c. Swanson Chicken Broth
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves finely chopped
1 1/2 c. ditalini pasta (or other small shape)
Freshly grated Parmesan, for garnish
Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish
- In a large, deep pot over medium heat, heat oil. Add sausage and cook, breaking up with a wooden spoon, until cooked through, about 5 minutes. Stir in onion, carrots, and celery and cook until slightly softened, about 5 minutes.
- Add garlic and cook until fragrant, 1 minute more. Season with salt and pepper, then add in beans (with their liquid), diced tomatoes, chicken broth, and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then stir in ditalini.
- Reduce heat to medium and cook until pasta is al dente, about 8 minutes. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
- Serve in bowls garnished with Parmesan and parsley.