Pasta Fagioli or Pasta with Beans is a comfort food from my childhood. The proper name is Pasta e Fagioli, and is categorized as a soup instead of a pasta. It was often served on Fridays when we did not eat meat. Southern Italians called it Pasta Fazool, based on their Italian dialect word for beans – fasuli (“fa-SU-li,”).
Nobody makes a better Pasta Fazool than my sister Marisa. Her version is a white-style. The creaminess comes from using white northern beans, a small diced potato and a small amount of Ditalini pasta (Ditalini is a short tube shaped pasta) added to the chicken broth. Her signature is adding fresh escarole and rosemary. She does not use a tomato base. Instead she adds one small chopped fresh tomato. Lots of freshly grated parmesan cheese and extra cooked Ditalini is served on the side.
There are many variations of Pasta Fazool. My Mother’s version was very plain – just Hunt’s tomato sauce, garlic and white northern beans. She made it thin, and served it over Ditalini pasta. I love my Mom’s garlicky, tomato version, but love my sister’s creamy white version too. Being an Italian home cook means putting a spin on childhood favorites. Thank you Marisa for sharing yours.
Marisa's Pasta Fagioli (Pasta Fazool)
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic chopped
- 1/2 cup carrots diced
- ½ cup onions diced
- ½ cup celery diced
- ½ cup white potato peeled and diced
- ½ cup tomato chopped
- 6 - 7 cups chicken broth or stock
- 2 cans of drained cannellini beans or white northern beans
- 1 head escarole trimmed cleaned and chopped or small bag of spinach
- ½ cup uncooked ditalini pasta
- 1 cup uncooked ditalini cooked to use on the side, optional
- rosemary ½ tsp.
- red pepper flakes ½ tsp.
- parmesan cheese grated
- salt and pepper to taste
- Cover bottom of dutch oven or large pot with olive oil. Saute garlic in olive oil over medium high heat for 1 minute.
- Add the onions, celery and carrots, stir a minute or two, then add the potatoes. Stir the potatoes to incorporate with the vegetables. Stir in the salt, pepper, rosemary and red pepper.
- When the vegetables are glistening after a few minutes, pour in the broth. When the broth starts to simmer, add the tomato and beans. Simmer 20 minutes.
- Scoop out 1 and 1/2 cup of the soft vegetables and blend in a blender or chopper, then re-add to the pot and stir. Simmer 10 minutes, stir a few times.
- Next, turn up heat to bring to a light boil and add the ½ cup uncooked pasta. Stir the pasta a few times so it does not stick to the bottom.
- After the pasta is cooked - about 10 minutes, add the escarole. Let this slow simmer for 30 minutes or longer. The broth should not be too watery. Add ¼ cup grated parmesan in pot and stir.
- Serve with grated parmesan cheese on top of each bowl.
- If desired add more pasta. Tastes even better the next day.