Perfect Pasta Fagioli

Updated on May 29, 2019
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Exploring food facts, folklore, and fabulous recipes, one ingredient at a time.

Perfect pasta fagioli
Perfect pasta fagioli | Source

When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool, that's amore.

— From "That's Amore," as sung by Dean Martin

Pasta What??

Pasta fagioli (pah-stah fah-ZHOOL), is peasant food, comfort food, and (in my opinion) heaven in a bowl. This simple Italian supper stew of pasta and beans probably has as many variations as there are Italian families. Each region, village, and household has its own spin and nuance, but all of them have several key ingredients in common.

What Does It Take?

You don't have to eat at an Italian restaurant to get a good (dare I say perfect?) bowl of this wonderful food. You can actually make it at home. Let me explain to you each of the components and how they work together to make this rich, comforting dish.

Let's get started.

Onion and garlic
Onion and garlic | Source

Onion and Garlic

Onion and garlic; in cooking these are called aromatics—vegetables that, when cooked in fat, add depth and impart deep flavors to savory dishes. The best onion of choice for pasta fagioli is the yellow onion. These are considered the universal, all-purpose onion and constitute about 75 percent of the world onion production. They are astringent yet sweet, and their sweetness intensifies with low, slow cooking.

Garlic is another ubiquitous aromatic, but perhaps you think its flavor is too harsh, too intense for a soup? Garlic doesn't have to be that way. If you treat it gently, it will reveal to you it's sweet side. Rule #1 - Don't smash it and don't push through a garlic press. Take your time and mince with a knife. Rule #2 - Don't cook it on high heat; it will burn and burnt garlic is bitter garlic. Low and slow is the way to go.

Pancetta
Pancetta | Source

Pancetta

Bacon and pancetta are very similar. They are both cured and are made from the pork belly (not the rear leg). Both are also considered "raw" and need to be cooked before eating. However, pancetta is typically sold either diced or in paper-thin slices.

Bacon is cured, but it's also smoked and so has a slightly different taste. Please, if you can, use pancetta in this recipe. If not available, you may use thin (not thick-sliced) bacon.

Cannellini beans
Cannellini beans | Source

Cannellini Beans

We want a white bean for this dish, but are they all the same? Peruse the grocery aisle where dried pasta and legumes reside and you will find several varieties of white beans, most commonly cannellini, Great Northern, and navy.

They are all close in taste, but texture is a huge factor in this dish. Cannellinis are the largest of the three and, although they have the thickest skins, they cook up creamy yet intact. Great Northerns are slightly smaller. Their skins are more tender and they have slightly less creamy flesh. Navy beans are the smallest of the three and although they cook up tender, their skins slip off easily, making the final product seem more chewy in texture.

So, your ultimate choice is #1 cannellini; if you cannot find them in your store opt for the Great Northern white beans.

Ditalini pasta
Ditalini pasta | Source

Ditalini Pasta

You need a very small pasta for this dish because you want a quick-cooking bite of pasta in every spoonful. I prefer ditalini. The name means "little thimbles" in Italian.

Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 cups dry cannellini beans (see note below)
  • 7 cups of water
  • 1 cup finely diced yellow onion
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 4 slices pancetta, chopped
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 1½ cups uncooked ditalini
  • 2 teaspoons fresh minced rosemary
  • Parmesan
  • Pesto

Note: If you cannot find cannellini beans, Great northern beans are a good substitute. Do not use navy beans.

Instructions

  1. First, sort and wash your beans. What do I mean? Spread them out on a cookie sheet and pick through them, looking for rocks, small clumps of dirt, or shriveled beans. Trust me, you don't want to have those things in your soup. Beans are not washed when they are harvested. Any moisture would cause them to mold, so after sorting, please wash your beans to remove field dust.
  2. Place the beans and water in a crockpot (slow cooker). Cook on high for 4 hours. After 4 hours the beans should be perfectly tender but not mushy. They should be intact but creamy on the inside.
  3. Place the onion and olive oil in a stockpot or large pot with a lid. Cook over low heat for 10 minutes. Add the minced garlic and pancetta. Stir and continue to cook over low heat until the onions are soft and golden, the garlic is fragrant and gently colored, and the pancetta is beginning to crisp. (Note that it will continue to cook in the soup).
  4. Add the broth to the pot and bring to a boil over medium-high heat.
  5. Stir in the pasta; reduce the heat to medium-low (just enough to maintain a gentle simmer). Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the package, stirring occasionally until done.
  6. Add the rosemary and the cooked beans to the pot (there should be very little residual cooking water).
  7. Reduce the heat to low; stir to combine and allow to simmer together for a few minutes for the flavors to meld. The mixture will be very thick.
  8. Serve in bowls; garnish with pesto and/or grated Parmesan if desired.

Makes 6-8 servings

Questions & Answers

    © 2019 Linda Lum

    Comments

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      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        RTalloni I hope you and enjoy it. I am sorry about your injury. Prayers for quick healing.

      • profile image

        RTalloni 

        5 months ago

        Was looking for a white bean recipe because of the calcium and magnesium they contain to help heal a broken bone. Love pasta fagioli so am double-glad to find this recipe. Thanks!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Dora, as I mentioned to Flourish (the comment just below yours) you can make this without meat. Some smoked paprika is the key. Thanks for commenting.

      • MsDora profile image

        Dora Weithers 

        5 months ago from The Caribbean

        Thanks for the recipe. Looks good in the picture. Will try mine without pancetta.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Flourish, may I offer a suggestion to you. I know that you are vegan, but there is a way that you could make this for yourself and it would "almost" taste like the real thing. Omit the pancetta (of course), use vegetable broth in place of the chicken broth, and stir in some smoked paprika. This meal is definitely comfort (i.e. love) in a bowl. I want some now. Thanks for stopping by.

      • FlourishAnyway profile image

        FlourishAnyway 

        5 months ago from USA

        I love that you integrated music and cooking in the very first. If you make this with the crockpot as you mention you don’t have to turn the oven on and heat the house. I’ve never had this but it sounds good. I sure am glad you gave that pronunciation helper. Ha

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Eric, I am swooning. (I hope your wife and my husband never see these comments LOL). You are so kind in your comments full of love and appreciation. It makes my heart soar.

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        By the first light of the day we wait

        this is an important date

        what will breakfast bring

        A bounce in our step to Spring

        We love our Diva with all our taste

        Never another second for us to waste

        We are just going to jump into here cook space

        What a wonderful and loving and fun place

        She is our Diva and what can we say

        But she cooks for us every day.

        Perhaps I lift her up as she does me

        Perhaps a loving and loved deity.

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Hi Sha, cook until they are fork-tender; if you do them the traditional way, it's 60 to 90 minutes.

      • bravewarrior profile image

        Shauna L Bowling 

        5 months ago from Central Florida

        I've only seen Pasta Fagioli as a very watery soup. Your version looks much better and more appealing.

        If someone doesn't want to use a slow cooker (or doesn't have one), how long should the beans be cooked before adding to the soup?

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        5 months ago from Sunny Florida

        Hi Linda, A blustery afternoon in even northern FL may happen in Dec. and March or April, but that is it. LoL

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Pamela, I am glad that you appreciate the effort I put into writing this. I try to make as though I'm standing beside you in the kitchen so that you know not what to do but why. That's what a teacher does.

        The weather is almost too warm to consider making this meal now, but save it for a blustery Saturday afternoon (you DO get those in Florida, right?).

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Eric, that is the first time that anyone has serenaded me. Vita Bella!

      • Carb Diva profile imageAUTHOR

        Linda Lum 

        5 months ago from Washington State, USA

        Bill, I just finished reading your latest "Artistry with Words" and you spoke of how important it is for writers to continue what they do because we are sharing knowledge with others. Case closed.

      • billybuc profile image

        Bill Holland 

        5 months ago from Olympia, WA

        I've never heard of it. How is that possible? I must live in a bubble, Linda. You write about these things like they are commonplace, and I'm clueless. lol

      • Ericdierker profile image

        Eric Dierker 

        5 months ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

        Something went wrong. Did I comment yet?

        https://lyricstranslate.com/en/ah-vita-bella-oh-go...

        It is midnight on a very dark night

        It is midnight the moon is asleep

        It is midnight but it was broad daylight

        suddenly the light went away

        it is midnight and I know not why

        You used to like sausages, but now you dont eat them

        You used to like cherries but now you dont eat them

        You used to like making love at any time of the day

        ah the dood life why dont you return

        You used to likewarm bread

        You used to like pasta and beans

      • Pamela99 profile image

        Pamela Oglesby 

        5 months ago from Sunny Florida

        I think this would be a delicious dish. I have never eaten Fagioli, but this recipe does not sound too difficult. Thanks for explaining the way to cook this in such important detail. Have a great week Linda.

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