Pasta e Fagioli, also known as pasta fazool, or pasta and beans, is one of the most iconic Italian-American comfort foods. It's simple to make, budget-friendly, and full of wonderful flavor and texture from cannellini beans, pancetta, Parmigiano Reggiano, ditalini pasta, and rosemary.
Editor’s Note: Originally Published on November 6, 2018. Updated with full process shots and expanded info.
Pasta fagioli, or pasta e fagioli, or as we say in New York, pasta fazool, is a hearty soup consisting of borlotti (cranberry beans) or cannellini beans and any tiny pasta shape.
There are many versions and variations of this dish and as with many of our recipes, we encourage you to use this recipe as a base and adapt as you see fit.
For example, my grandma did not use pancetta or rosemary in her version, but we love the flavors they add so we use them in this recipe.
They are both optional, and omitting the pancetta will make this dish vegetarian.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Dice one medium-sized onion and 4 ounces of pancetta. Slice 5 cloves of garlic.
- In a large heavy pot, saute the pancetta in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 7-10 minutes over medium heat or until the pancetta has rendered most of its fat. Note: If omitting the pancetta use 4-5 tablespoons of olive oil.
- Add the onions and saute for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more or until just golden. Add the ¼ teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds more.
- Hand crush 3 large canned plum tomatoes and add to the onion and pancetta mixture. Note: That's 3 tomatoes from 1 can - that's all!
- Add 6 cups of water and 1 teaspoon of kosher salt and give it a stir. Add 1 sprig of rosemary (optional). Add 3 16-ounce cans of drained cannellini beans, a rind of Parmigiano Reggiano (optional), and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium and crush some of the beans by smashing them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. If you'd like a creamier consistency, use an immersion blender for about 5-10 seconds, or blend ⅓ of the beans in a regular blender. Don't blend too much though as you still want some of the whole beans for your soup.
- Once the soup is at the consistency you want, add 2 cups of uncooked ditalini pasta and cook until al dente. Keep an eye on the pot and stir frequently to avoid sticking. The pasta will absorb much of the liquid so add more water as needed. The final consistency of pasta e fagioli is entirely a personal preference. If you prefer it to be soupier, add more water. Note: If you're planning to make a large amount of soup for 1 person and plan to have leftovers, cook the pasta separately as it may become mushy the longer it sits in the soup.
- Once the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and taste test. Adjust salt, pepper, and hot red pepper to taste. Note: you will likely need a good amount more salt, depending on your taste. Once you're happy with the taste, serve the pasta e fagioli in bowls with crusty bread. Serve with grated cheese, hot red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of your best extra virgin olive oil. Enjoy!
Top tips for outstanding pasta fagioli
- The beans. Traditionally borlotti beans are used but cannellini beans are easier to find and great for the "fagioli" in pasta e fagioli. For our method, we used an immersion blender to yield a thicker consistency. If you'd like a thinner consistency, skip the blending and simply use the flat part of a wooden spoon to smash the beans on the side of the pot. If you find you've gone a bit blender happy with an immersion blender and have no more whole beans left, you can open an additional can of beans and add them to the soup.
- The pasta. Any small pasta shape will do for pasta fazool. We are using ditalini (tubetti) but you can also use small shells, farfalline, elbows, or even broken spaghetti in a pinch!
- The cheese. Parmigiano Reggiano cheese rinds add great flavor to add to soups and we recommend using them if you have. If not, do not worry! You can simply add grated Parmigiano Reggiano to the soup and it will still taste great. Also, if you prefer to use Pecorino instead of Parmigiano, you can do so but since Pecorino is saltier, be mindful of that when adding additional salt and as always, be sure to taste test!
- Adaptations. As mentioned above, you can definitely omit the pancetta to make this a vegetarian pasta e fagioli. As for the rosemary, if you don't like it you can omit it entirely. Rosemary is strong-tasting herb and will definitely impart a great deal of flavor to the dish so if it's not your thing, don't use it. If you'd like additional flavor, you can use low sodium chicken broth instead of water. Lastly, if you are planning to make this ahead of time, or only plan to eat a small amount while saving the rest for leftovers, consider making the pasta separately as it may become mushy.
More simple recipes you'll love
If you're a fan of pasta fazool, we think you'll enjoy these other comforting recipes, most of which can be made with pantry staples.
- Pasta e ceci - One pot comforting dish with pasta and chickpeas.
- Pasta e piselli - Tiny pasta and peas with olive oil and cheese.
- Pasta e patate - Pancetta, a touch of tomato, diced potatoes, and pasta.
- Pasta e lenticchie - Lentils and mismatched pasta with onions, garlic, cheese, and olive oil.
- Pasta con broccoli - Garlic, oil, broccoli, and pasta.
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- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta diced
- 5 cloves garlic minced
- 1 medium onion diced
- ¼ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 3 16 ounce cans cannellini beans drained, but don't rinse
- 6 cups water to start but add more as needed
- 3 canned plum tomatoes hand crushed, note: just 3 plum tomatoes from 1 can - that's it!
- 1 sprig rosemary optional
- 2 cups ditalini pasta or small shells, elbows, etc
- 1 Parmigiano rind optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large heavy pot saute the pancetta in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for 7-10 minutes over medium heat or until the pancetta has rendered most of its fat.
- Next, add in the onions and saute for 5 minutes then add in the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes more until just golden. Finally, add the hot red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds.
- Next, add in 6 cups of water, 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, and the plum tomatoes and give it all a stir. Add in the drained beans and the Parmigiano Reggiano rind (if you don’t have one, you can use a bit of grated cheese or just omit) and bring to a boil for 5 minutes.
- Lower the heat to medium and crush some of the beans by smashing them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. For a creamier consistency use an immersion blender, or spoon ⅓ of the beans into a regular blender and pulse. Don't blend too much so that some of the whole bean texture is maintained. Make sure to do this step before adding the pasta!
- Add in the pasta and cook until al dente. Keep an eye on the pot and stir very frequently to avoid sticking. The pasta will absorb much of the liquid so add more water as needed. The final consistency of the pasta e fagioli is 100% a personal preference. If you like it soupier, add more water!
- Once the pasta is al dente turn off the heat and taste test. Adjust salt (will probably need a good amount), pepper, and hot red pepper to taste.
- When satisfied with the taste, serve in bowls with crusty bread. Offer grated cheese, hot red pepper flakes, or black pepper on the side and drizzle some high-quality extra virgin olive onto each bowl. Enjoy!
- Pasta shapes like ditalini, small shells, elbows, and farfalline are all great choices. Even broken spaghetti works!
- If you plan to have leftovers, be sure to cook the pasta separately. Otherwise, it's better to cook the pasta in the sauce to better absorb the flavors.
- Leftovers can be saved for up to 3 days and can be reheated in the microwave.
This recipe was originally published on November 6, 2018. It was completely updated on July 20, 2022.