Pasta e Fagioli, a classic Italian recipe for Pasta and Beans (sometimes called pasta fazool), is a cheap, easy, and deliciously comforting recipe the whole family will love!
This Pasta e Fagioli recipe is different than what you may be used to (for example, it’s NOT what you’d find at the Olive Garden). While authenticity of this dish differs from region to region in Italy, this simple version is akin to what I ate when I was in Italy.
Authentic pasta e fagioli is usually less of a “soup” and more of a thick stew, with the main ingredients being pasta and beans. It’s one of those recipes that will make you wonder whether you should use a spoon or a fork to eat it.
It may include other veggies (this version has onions, celery, tomateos, and carrots), but the bulk of the sauce is made primarily of beans.
This recipe is luxuriously creamy and thick, but without adding dairy. The thickness of the sauce is achieved by mashing or pureeing some of the beans, coating every piece of pasta in a delicious, simple sauce.
In this post I’ll explain how to make authentic pasta e fagioli using only a few simple ingredients, how to make it vegetarian or vegan, and how to make sure to season it perfectly to amp up the flavor!
How to make Authentic Pasta e Fagioli
The thing I LOVE about this pasta e fagioli is that it’s a ONE-POT pasta recipe! This makes clean-up easier, and it also means that the starches from the pasta are all incorporated into the dish, rather than being lost in the cooking water.
Start with some pancetta (I bought it already diced at the store, which saved me some time! You can also use bacon if you prefer.). Add some onions, celery, carrots, and fresh rosemary. Sautè it all in some olive oil in a large pot until everything’s softened and starting to brown.
Then, add crushed tomatoes, chicken stock, and some drained and rinsed cannellini beans. You only want to add half of them at this point- save the rest of the beans for a little later.
Now here’s the most important part: use an immersion blender to puree the bean and veggie mixture directly in the pot. You don’t need it to be SUPER smooth- just thickened a bit. Only a few seconds should do it.
If you don’t have an immersion blender, no worries: you can use a potato masher to mash some of the beans and veggies right in the pot. Easy peasy.
Then, add the rest of the beans and pasta. You can use any small-medium sized pasta you want. I used medium shells, but you can use small shells, ditalini, rotini, or any other kind you want!
Bring to a boil, cover, and simmer, until the pasta is cooked. YUM, and so easy!
How to season pasta e fagioli perfectly
The stars of this recipe are pretty bland- beans and pasta. Here are some tips and tricks to amping up the flavor, while still keeping the recipe simple and pure.
- Use LOTS of salt. The pancetta/bacon will be a little salty, and if you use chicken stock as the liquid base, it will already have some salt in it, but that will depend on whether it’s homemade, or which brand of store bought you use. Add salt while it’s cooking, and then add more after as needed.
- Top it with fresh grated parmesan cheese, which adds more salt and also a punch of umami.
- Stir in some extra-virgin olive oil after it’s done cooking, and top it with even more when you serve it. EVOO has a pure taste that is adulterated when it’s heated up, so adding it cold at the end helps elevate the taste of the whole dish.
- For some spice, add plenty of fresh cracked red pepper and top with crushed red pepper when you serve it.
- Be generous with the garlic and rosemary. I originally used only a teaspoon of fresh rosemary, but in the end it needed more, so I upped the amount to one tablespoon.
How to make vegetarian or vegan pasta e fagioli
It’s so easy to make a vegetarian or vegan version of this recipe.
Just omit the pancetta/bacon and use vegetable stock or water instead of chicken! Easy peasy.
For a vegan version, make sure you don’t top with parmesan cheese.
For both options: make sure you compensate for the omission of pancetta and chicken stock by using more salt. In case you haven’t picked up on it already, salt is KEY in this recipe!
Other easy Italian recipes
- Panzanella (Italian Tomato and Bread Salad)
- Italian Vegetarian Stuffed Mushrooms
- Four-Ingredient Pasta with Bolognese Sauce
- Authentic Bucatini all’Amatriciana
- Quick and Easy Spaghetti alla Carbonara
- Four-Ingredient Baked Gnocchi
- Linguine with Clams (from Once Upon a Chef)
Did you make this Pasta e Fagioli Recipe? Please comment below and Rate this Recipe
Pasta e Fagioli (Italian Pasta and Beans)
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil divided
- 4 oz. pancetta diced (or bacon, see notes for vegetarian option)
- 1 yellow onion diced
- 2 carrots diced or grated (see notes)
- 2 ribs celery diced
- 1 tablespoon fresh rosemary finely minced
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- 15 oz. canned crushed tomatoes
- 4 cups chicken stock/broth (or beef or vegetable broth, or water, or a combination)
- 2 19 oz. cans cannellini beans drained and rinsed (see notes)
- 8 oz. small or medium pasta such as shells, ditalini, orecchiette, or macaroni
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt plus more if needed
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper plus more if needed
- fresh grated parmesan cheese, more olive oil, and crushed red pepper for serving, optional
- Heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large pot over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta or bacon, onions, carrots, celery, and rosemary. Cook for about 5 minutes, until softened and starting to brown, stirring occasionally.
- Add the garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Add HALF of the drained and rinsed cannellini beans, the crushed tomatoes, and the chicken stock. Use an immersion blender to puree everything directly in the pot for a few seconds. It shouldn't be perfectly smooth, but some of the beans and veggies should be mashed to thicken the mixture. See notes if you don't have an immersion blender.
- Bring the mixture to a boil. Turn the heat down to low, and add the rest of the beans and the pasta, as well as the 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and 1/4 teaspoon of black pepper. Simmer, covered, until pasta is cooked (about 10 minutes).
- Stir in the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste (this dish requires a lot of salt, and how much you add depends on how much is in the stock/broth you use or if you've used water).
- Serve with freshly grated parmesan cheese, crushed red pepper, and drizzled with more extra-virgin olive oil, if desired.
- Make it vegan/vegetarian: Omit the pancetta/bacon and use vegetable broth or water instead of chicken stock.
- A note on the canned beans: Cannellini beans, frustratingly, are sometimes hard to find in standard can sizes. I used two cans of Cento brand, which come in 19 oz. sizes. You can use two 15 oz. cans, or even three 15 oz. cans. The recipe is very flexible.
- Money Saving Tip: Cook dry beans and use about 4 cups cooked cannellini beans instead of using canned.
- Don't have an immersion blender? You can use a potato masher for a similar, but more rustic texture, and mash the beans and veggies directly in the pot. If you do this, I recommend grating the carrots, as they will be too hard to mash up at this point. Alternatively, you can put all the cooked veggies, along with half of the beans, into a standing blender, then add it back to the pot with the crushed tomatoes and chicken stock.