I love a good Italian Bean and Pasta dish – either soup or pasta with a beany “ragu”. This has to be my favourite so far. It is a dish that could pass for either a soup or pasta course. Rich and delicious, it is definitely a Winter dish.
The key to this dish is the soffritto—a mix of aromatic vegetables, finely chopped, and slowly cooked. It takes some time – about 20 mins – to sweat down the vegetables until they are completely softened before letting them take on any colour. You’ll be surprised by how much richness it adds to the dish.
Pasta e Fagioli
250g dried cannellini beans or borlotti beans, soaked overnight
4 carrots, coarsely chopped
1 onion, coarsely chopped
6 garlic cloves
0.33 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 400g can whole peeled tomatoes (can use Passatta)
1 bunch greens, ribs and stems removed, leaves torn – use Tuscan kale or other greens
0.5 tspn turmeric powder
1–2 Parmesan rinds (optional)
3 – 4 bay leaves
150g small soup pasta
stock or water, as needed
3 juniper berries
2 brown cardamom pods
4 allspice berries
4 long pepper, ground to a powder
finely grated Parmesan
crushed red pepper flakes
Pulse the carrots, leek, and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped.
Heat the oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and season generously with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring often, until the vegetables start to sweat out some of their liquid – about 4 minutes. The goal at this stage is to slow cook the soffritto until the vegetables are very soft but have not taken on any colour.
Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover the pot. Cook, stirring every 5 minutes, until vegetables are softened and juicy – about 15 minutes. Reduce the heat if the mixture starts to brown.
Then uncover the pot and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom of the pot every 5 minutes, until the soffritto is starting to brown and has lost at least half of its volume – about 10 minutes more.
Add the soaked beans and their soaking liquid with the tomatoes. Bring to a boil and add Parmesan rinds (if using), turmeric, juniper berries, cardamom pods, allspice berries and bay leaves. Smash the tomatoes a little with a fork.
Reduce the heat to medium-low and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook the soup with lid askew, checking every 20 or 30 mins and adding water or stock as needed, until the beans are very tender. This will take 1–3 hours, depending on the type, size and age of beans.
Fish out and discard the Parmesan rinds, juniper berries, cardamom pods and allspice berries. Add the finely chopped greens and simmer until tender.
Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling well-salted water, until very al dente, a few minutes less than the package directions. Drain the pasta and add to the soup, then taste and season if needed.
Divide the soup among bowls. Top with Parmesan, drizzle with oil, and sprinkle with red pepper flakes. Serve with bread for dunking.
recipe notes and additions
A higher ratio of pasta can be used to make a thick, pasta based soup, more like pasta and beans than a soup.
I like the freshness of the pasta as it is cooked separately. But it can be cooked the traditional way – in the soup – add more water or stock as the pasta will absorb liquid and add starch to the broth.