Pasta and beans or pasta e fagioli is one of the most iconic of all the NY Italian-American comfort food dishes. My mom legit made this dish 200 times during my childhood. This recipe is made in the Instant Pot instead of on the stove for some added convenience.
Pronounced "pasta fazool", at least by NY Italian-Americans, it's simply a hearty pasta and bean soup that combines pancetta, garlic, and rosemary in a very light tomato broth.
There are so many variations on this dish, but I think this is the best recipe for you to make.
Why Is Your Pasta Fagioli Recipe The Best?
Well a little hyperbole never hurt anyone.
In all seriousness though I see so many recipes with a billion ingredients. At its core this recipe could really be made with only a handful of them.
Pasta, tomato, water, garlic, beans, olive oil, pecorino, and salt and pepper is all that's required!
I only add a few more ingredients to the list like chicken stock which definitely provides more flavor than water.
Pancetta - totally optional but a worthy addition in my opinion.
Rosemary - gives a great flavor and is traditionally the herb of choice for flavoring pasta e fagioli.
Now Don't Quote Me On Anything Here
Many people hold tight and rigid to recipes thinking theirs is the most authentic pasta e fagioli. I would never be that presumptuous and realize that an Italian in Boston will have a different recipe than one in New York.
Different traditions pop up and hold firm in certain neighborhoods and then everyone living there thinks that's the only way to do it.
I've seen a few recipes with carrots or celery - if you like it and want to use it, go for it! Again, I like simple and this one is just that!
What Type Of Pasta?
This is another one of those questions where everyone thinks theirs is the "one". I say it's ditalini pasta but again use what you like.
However I would recommend a small pasta like a small shell or elbow macaroni. I always had it with ditalini growing up and have never used anything else. In fact I have never made anything with ditalini except pasta e fagioli.
Pasta And Beans Process:
- Ingredients shown are the cannellini beans, canned tomatoes, chicken stock, garlic, rosemary, pancetta, and pecorino cheese.
- Cook the ditalini to al dente - about 1-2 minutes less than package instructions and set aside. Don't worry if it sticks together because once it goes into the soup it will be separate.
- Turn Instant Pot to saute and add olive oil and pancetta.
- Chop garlic coarsely.
- After sauteing the pancetta for about 7-10 minutes it will look like the picture.
- Add the garlic and saute for 30 seconds more.
- Add the beans, rosemary, tomatoes, black pepper and chicken stock and close and lock the lid. Turn off saute mode by pressing cancel. Set steam release to close. Turn on the pressure cook button and choose 4 minutes.
- Grate 1.5 cups of pecorino.
- The cook cycle will finish by beeping. Let the pressure naturally release for 15 minutes and then quick release the remaining pressure. If you're in a rush you can do a quick release right away and the finished product will be the same.
- Finally add 1 cup of pecorino and the ditalini pasta. Stir it all together and taste. It will most likely not need any more salt because of the pecorino and pancetta, but adjust according to personal preference.
- Serve with remaining grated pecorino, crushed pepper flakes and a big drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on every bowl. Enjoy!
So that is it on the step by step. It's a real easy recipe.
There is no real "authentic pasta fagioli" recipe as far as I can tell. I'm a New York born and raised Italian who grew up eating only Italian food. I have had many bowls of pasta fagioli mostly at friend's houses from their Italian mothers or grandmothers. Every one of them was a little different, but always very similar.
Pasta Fagioli Traits:
- It's a very hearty broth with just a hint of tomato. For this recipe I only use a small 15 ounce can of chopped tomatoes. My Grandmother would use only a couple plum tomatoes from the can and squeeze them into the broth.
- Pancetta and rosemary are used almost always but they are not required. At its core this is a pasta and beans dish that is garlicky and served in a bowl with some good Italian bread to sop up the sauce.
- The sauce is thickened from the break down of the beans and with grated pecorino at the table. A healthy sprinkle of it over the bowl and a drizzle of olive oil make a good soup even better.
- If it's too thick just add some water to thin it out- really that simple!
This is a real easy dish. On a scale of 1-5 with 1 being easy this is a 2 and that only comes down to operating the Instant Pot correctly. I assume this is not your first cook with the Instant Pot. If it is, just make sure to read the directions on your machine.
I find the Instant Pot really excels with these type of recipes. Just remember that the pressure cook setting of 4 minutes will be more than enough. If it goes much longer the beans will turn to complete mush.
There is nothing wrong with that and it will be just as good. It just won't have the texture of the occasional whole bean mixed in with slightly mushy ones.
What Goes With Pasta Fagioli?
Good Italian bread is a must to sop up all the delicious bits that the spoon couldn't get to.
A great Italian red wine such as a Chianti or Valpolicella Ripasso is always perfect, but a white such as Pinot Grigio would be nice as well.
What To Serve With Pasta Fagioli
- Italian Roasted Peppers
- Baked Portobello Mushrooms With Bruschetta
- Easy Stuffed Tomatoes With Ricotta Salata
Want More Italian Comfort Food?
- Pasta e Ceci
- Pasta Al Forno
- Tuna Pasta
- Spaghetti Carbonara
- Italian Sausage Pasta
- Linguine Alle Vongole
- Rigatoni Alla Vodka
DID YOU TRY THIS RECIPE?
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- 1 pound ditalini pasta
- 4 ounces pancetta
- 1 32 ounce can cannelini beans
- 1 15 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1.5 cups pecorino romano
- 5 cups low sodium chicken stock
- 6 cloves garlic
- 1 large rosemary sprig
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- ½ tsp black pepper
- Cook ditalini pasta to al dente. While boiling the pasta start up the Instant Pot on saute and cook the pancetta for 7 minutes. When pasta is finished drain and set aside.
- Chop garlic and grate pecorino cheese.
- Add garlic to pot and saute with pancetta for 30 seconds more. Add the drained beans, tomatoes, rosemary sprig, 5 cups chicken stock, and black pepper to pot. Close lid and turn pressure valve to sealed position. Turn saute off. Turn pressure cooker setting to on and set for 4 minutes.
- The cook cycle will beep when finished. Let the pressure release naturally for 15 minutes and then quick release it to let out remaining steam. Open pot and add the pasta and 1 cup of pecorino. Stir it all together and taste test if it needs any additional salt.
- Serve with crusty Italian bread, crushed pepper flakes, and more pecorino on the side. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil over each bowl and enjoy!
- I do not recommend the Instant Pot for making the pasta as it will be mushy and hard to cook everything together. It can be done but I think you will get a much better result boiling the pasta on the stove.
- Thin with water or more chicken stock if too thick.
- Thicken with a little cheese sprinkled on top or if necessary cook on the stove top, but I do not think this will be required.
- I love this dish with a nice sprinkle of hot pepper flakes and good extra virgin olive oil drizzled on top.
- A good loaf of bread is really important to sop up the remaining sauce in your bowl.
- No salt was added because pecorino is very salty as is pancetta. Also, the chicken stock's sodium level varies depending on the brand.