This traditional pasta e fagioli recipe (commonly referred to as pasta fazool) was passed down from a native Italian. Made with cannellini beans, pancetta, pasta, and rosemary, this soup is comfort food at its finest, and my family's favorite meal.
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There are only a few meals that my whole family gets really excited about. I'm not talking about a lackluster "yum," but rather a jumping up and down, arms thrown around my waist, screaming "You're the best mom/wife EVER!" sort of excited.
Pasta e fagioli (which means "Pasta and beans" in Italian) is one of those dinners.
If you've had pasta e fagioli at the Olive Garden, you'll find that this recipe is quite a bit different. Sorry, Olive Garden lovers.
This traditional Italian pasta e fagioli recipe is not tomato based, nor does it contain carrots, celery or ground beef.
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This pasta e fagioli has a combination of small pasta shells, cannellini beans, pancetta and rosemary, which gives it an earthy, smoky flavor that's to die for.
And it MUST be served with crusty bread, so that you can soak up every last drop of the thick, delicious broth.
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What makes this recipe a little different than others is that the bulk of the ingredients are pureed. This gives it an amazingly creamy texture (despite being dairy free).
When I first started making pasta e fagioli, I based it on a recipe from someone's Italian grandfather.
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Over the years I've pared it down to the essentials and learned to make pasta e fagioli as simply as possible without sacrificing any of the flavor.
Shortcuts & Substitutions:
- If you own an immersion blender, you can save time by blending the soup right in the pot instead of transferring it to a blender.
- Pasta substitution: Typically I use small shells in my pasta e fagioli, but you can substitute ditalini, macroni, small oriechiette, or any other type of small noodle.
- You can substitute bacon for pancetta in pasta e fagioli. And if you want to make a vegetarian version of the soup, omit the pancetta and add a teaspoon or two of smoked paprika instead (it mimics the smoky flavor).
- Dried rosemary can be used in place of fresh rosemary. Use 1 teaspoon dried.
Thickening/Thinning the Broth:
If you find that the soup is getting too thick as the pasta cooks, feel free to add a little more broth or water. It's supposed to be thick, but you want it to still be soupy.
Conversely, if it seems a little too watery, just let it sit on the stove (with the burner off) for a bit. The pasta will thicken it up over time.
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What to Serve with Pasta e Fagioli:
In case you missed it the first time, you must, MUST serve this soup with crusty bread. I'm not messing around about this.
It's also delicious paired with a simple balsamic vinaigrette salad or a caprese salad made with fresh tomatoes, fresh basil and buffalo mozzarella.
A glass of red wine is also highly recommended. :)
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Authentic Pasta e Fagioli
- 3 15 oz cans cannellini beans
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- ½ medium onion chopped
- 2 cloves garlic chopped
- 4 oz pancetta or approx 4 slices bacon diced
- 2 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
- 3 cups beef broth
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 1 cup crushed tomatoes
- 1 ¾ cups small pasta shells uncooked
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- crushed red pepper flakes optional
- parmesan cheese optional
- Drain ONE can of beans, and set aside.
- In a large soup pot, heat olive oil. Add onion and pancetta and saute until onions are golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and rosemary and saute about 4 additional minutes.
- Transfer sauteed ingredients to a blender or food processor and add the two other cans of beans (liquid included). Puree until smooth.
- Add the pureed mixture back into the pot, along with the drained beans, the chicken and beef broth, salt, and crushed tomatoes. Bring to a boil.
- Once boiling, add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.
- Once the pasta is cooked, remove from heat.
- Taste, and add more salt if necessary.
- Serve, topped with red pepper flakes and parmesan cheese, if you like.
If you make this recipe, please come back and tell me what you think. Hopefully your family will love it as much as mine does.
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