Pasta fazool, or pasta e fagioli, quite literally translates to “pasta and beans”, but it’s so much more than that. It’s a bowl of comfort seasoned with nostalgia and a heavy sprinkle of history. And while there are many ways to make it, and many ways to pronounce it, one thing is consistent: it’s always delicious!

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What is pasta e fagioli?

The only requirement for a dish to be called pasta e fagioli, or pasta fazool, is to contain pasta and beans.

There are many variations but the most common combination is a small-shaped pasta, such as tubetti/ditalini, or elbows, and cannellini beans, navy beans, or borlotti beans.

Some versions will be soupy, while others will be thicker; some may include pancetta, while others will be vegetarian.

Some variations of pasta fazool will include tomato, while others will be “in bianco”.

I’ve eaten many variations throughout my life, and each time I make it I change it up ever so slightly.

No matter how I make it, we always enjoy it and find it ultra comforting.

Why do you pronounce it “pasta fazool”?

I’ve been pronouncing this dish “pasta fazool” my entire life but I never understood the linguistic background until recently.

In the Neapolitan dialect, fagioli, the Italian word for beans, is fasule; in Sicilian, the word is fasulu.

Considering the fact that most of the Italian immigrants that came to the US are from Southern Italy, that would explain why many here in the US call it pasta fazool.

In this episode, we dive a bit deeper into the linguistic and culinary backstory of this amazing dish!


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Hands holding spoonful of pasta fagioli over black bowl.



James (00:00):
Welcome back to the Sip and Feast podcast, episode number 19, I believe this is?

Tara (00:04):

James (00:05):
Thank you, Tara. This is pasta fagioli or pasta fazool, or pasta and beans. This is a discussion of one of the most quintessential Italian dishes and definitely an Italian-American favorite. And we’re going to go into, again, the little bit of history in there, how to make it really good, and we’ll share a couple personal stories about pasta fazool. How’s that sound, Tara?

Tara (00:32):
Sounds good.

James (00:33):
So what are we doing next?

Let’s describe it

Tara (00:34):
Let’s talk about pasta fazool. Let’s describe it, maybe, for folks who aren’t familiar with it, because I think for many people, even if they live in this area, they might not have actually had it. They may have heard about it because it is kind of a thing in pop culture. It’s been in songs. Like that song I think everybody knows. That’s Amore. One of the line’s in it when something starts to drool like pasta fazool.

James (01:04):
Oh, really? Yeah, that’s right.

Tara (01:05):
Yeah. So anyway, I think it would be helpful if you take a few minutes and describe it.

James (01:12):
We’ll go more into detail later about it, but it’s simply, at its core, pasta and beans. Think of this dish as typically done with white beans, sometimes other types of beans, but it’s a small pasta, beans in a broth. Some people will make it brothier, some people will make it more thick. Really a peasant dish. Super peasanty and cheap where you can feed a whole family for a few dollars with this one.

Tara (01:42):
That’s right.

James (01:42):
Any more detail you want me to give right now on this?

Tara (01:45):
Yeah, I think there’s so many different ways to make pasta fazool. Yes, the basics are that it is usually a small pasta shape, like a ditalini, tubetti, or elbows, and then some type of bean like cannellini beans, navy beans, or borlotti beans, which are used widely in Italy, but they’re harder to find here.

James (02:10):
Also, they’re called cranberry beans-

Tara (02:11):
Cranberry beans.

James (02:12):
Here in America.

Tara (02:12):
That’s right. Sometimes you start it with some pancetta or bacon, but you don’t have to. Sometimes there’s tomato, sometimes there’s a lot of tomato, sometimes there’s no tomato.

James (02:23):
And so there’s a bunch of different ways to do it. You can start with olive oil, lard. Traditionally, if you go really far back, I would say… And again, we’ll get into it in a sec, it would be done with lard, which is most Italian dishes were done with lard instead of olive oil. Olive oil is a more recent thing and a healthier thing, obviously. The main distinction, I would say, with pasta fazool to someone who maybe thinks of themselves as an expert in it or who grew up with it like I did, it’s probably the dish I ate the most that I was almost forced to eat. It’s a very simple thing. So then restaurants that, or people who maybe don’t know so much will try to make it something that it’s not. And this could always be from a Bon Appétit article to maybe New York Times cooking, or it could be the Olive Garden or Carrabba’s or something. They try to put 48 ingredients in it, and that is really not what pasta fazool is. Though it can be, but it’s a dish of the poor.

Tara (03:23):
That’s right. And it’s a soup that I would also say is a very creamy soup, but there’s no cream in it.

James (03:30):

Tara (03:31):
It’s creamy because of the beans.

James (03:33):
And the way the pasta is cooked.

Tara (03:34):
That’s right. Right, the starch. So that’s an-

James (03:36):
The technique of how you cook it.

Tara (03:37):
That’s an important part of making it, which we’ll go into a little bit later. Now, because I just mentioned that there’s all different variations on how to make it, and these variations can be from different regions of Italy, but it can vary from even within a family. And I’m using your family as the example because I know your grandma made it one way, your mom made it a different way, and you make it a little bit different than how they both made it. Is that right?

James (04:07):
In some of the recipes that have been fleshed out more on videos where I’ve done maybe four different versions, like Sunday sauce, you might get the feeling that Jim doesn’t really cook the same any one time, and you would be correct to assume that. And as you become a better cook, as you really start learning the knowledge of this and taking these recipes, and as I always say, making them your own, you won’t have a recipe per se either. But I will just say my grandmother and mothers, they were fairly similar, their recipes. They weren’t very different. When I put it on the YouTube video and when I put it on the site, I wanted to make it a little bit different than, I guess, how most people probably around this area of the country will do it. And the way most people in this area of the country, they will do it with a lot of garlic.

And I’m generalizing here. No doubt you might be from here too, and you know it might have a really involved version, but for the most part, it would be ditalini pasta. That’s the pasta that’s used. And then it would be cannellini beans, and it would be olive oil, and it would be a lot of garlic, hot red pepper flakes, and that’s pretty much it. And just a little bit of tomato. Maybe three or four tomatoes from a 28 ounce can, take a few of those tomatoes, just squeeze them in there. So not quite a bianco, but very close, and then a lot of water in there. You want to get fancy, you add a little bit of chicken stock, but most people probably weren’t doing that. That’s my mother and how my grandmother did it, and that is really the core pasta fazool. That is the most common way it’s prepared all across the New York, New Jersey metro. How can I speak for all those people? Maybe I’m wrong here. This is a very inexpensive, very accessible, very cheap, quick dinner dish.

Tara (06:08):
No, you use rosemary in your pasta fazool. Did your grandma make it with rosemary and your mom didn’t or-

James (06:15):
Occasionally, my grandmother might’ve used it, but for the most part she was doing how I just described.

Tara (06:20):
And your mom never did use rosemary?

James (06:22):
No, no herbs really get into it. That would be more of a northern Italian thing. And I just wanted to make the recipe a little different, so I put a little bit of rosemary in there a little bit.

Tara (06:31):
I do like it.

James (06:31):
And a little bit of pancetta.

Tara (06:33):
I like the rosemary in it.

James (06:34):
But as far as the sofrito and stuff like that, and we spoke about that in last week’s episode with the chicken parm and it was an offshoot in that discussion about how the earliest immigrants that came to this country, they were doing the bolognese, and then when the great wave happened, that wasn’t a dish that they brought with them because they were all from southern Italy. And that whole carrot, celery, onion, sofrito in every dish is not a common thing or as common as it is in other parts of Italy. And that goes to pasta fazool as well. It’s rare to see that. So if you google the recipe online and you get Olive garden copycat recipe, it’ll have chunks of that. It’ll have sausage in it, it’ll have a bunch of herbs in it, maybe it’ll have multiple beans. It’s not something that is really… I wouldn’t call that pasta fazool at that point.

Ingredients shown: cannellini beans, pancetta, garlic, Parmigiano rinds, onion, ditalini pasta, plum tomatoes, and rosemary sprig.


Tara (07:30):
I think later we’ll talk about how to make it. Obviously, you have videos on it, we have instructions on the website, but I’d really like for you to walk us through how it’s made. But before we do that, I think it would be helpful to share a little bit of context or the backstory of pasta fazool, if you will, or pasta fagioli.

James (07:49):
It’s very important, and we’re doing this in every episode now. So in case you’re new here, we talk about one dish. We talk about the history of it in America, the historic part of it, where it originated in Italy. We’re not giving you a dissertation on that because there’s a lot of conflicting info on most of these recipes. And even this one that Tara’s going to go over right now, you’ll learn.

Tara (08:16):
According to some of the research that I’ve done, pasta fazool stems from the beans and grains soups that were very popular during the Roman Empire. Fast-forward a little bit, Neapolitan cuisine was broken out into two different categories. They had cuisine for the wealthy, and they had cuisine for the poor folks. And pasta fazool was something that the poor folks would eat. So it was basically ignored by the chefs or the people who prepared the food for the wealthy class. There is a legend that the noble folks would dress up in a poor person’s clothing, and they would sneak into a tavern so that they could taste this peasant pasta fazool because they had heard about it, and I must’ve heard that it was good if they’re willing to dress up…

James (09:19):

Tara (09:20):
In those clothes and pretend to be poor for a couple of hours so they could taste the food. Anyway, so that’s a legend. The dish was originally made with the only beans that were available in Italy during the time of the Roman Empire, and those were black-eyed peas, which originated in West Africa, I believe. Those beans were brought to Italy through the various trade routes. Then, in the year 1528, Pope Clement II introduced different beans into the regions of Tuscany and Veneto, and these were beans that were actually imported from the Americas, and that was in the 16th century. And then since then, it’s evolved into the pasta fazool that we know today.

James (10:11):
So those beans were coming from the Americas, I would assume that’s when tomatoes were introduced into Italy as well. Yeah.

Tara (10:17):
It’s possible because-

James (10:17):
It has to be.

Tara (10:17):
I know tomatoes are not-

James (10:19):
Because [inaudible 00:10:19] came from the Americas.

Tara (10:20):

James (10:20):

Tara (10:20):

James (10:21):
Yeah. So give or take 20 years, 40 years, that’s when tomatoes… It’s so odd thinking of Italian food during that period of time without tomatoes.

Tara (10:31):
Right? Yeah.

James (10:32):
I mean, it’s crazy.

Tara (10:33):
It is. It is. So I think it’s impossible to talk about pasta fazool without talking about why there’s a difference in the way we pronounce the dish. In Italian, the classic Italian that you’re taught in school, I think that stems from the region of Tuscany and Florence, that area. The word for beans is fagioli. It’s F-A-G-I-O-L-I, fagioli. Now, Italy, before it was unified and had its own official language, there were different regions that had their own languages or dialects. And to be honest, if you look at some of the spelling and pronunciation of Sicilian specifically, it is kind of its own language.

James (11:32):

Tara (11:33):
It’s not even like a dialect. Things are different.

James (11:36):
We have a book in front of us right here.

Tara (11:39):
I do. One thing I wanted to point out was the Neapolitan dialect, it’s not spelled fagioli, it’s spelled fasule, and that’s F-A-S-U-L-E. In Sicilian, it’s fasola, F-A-S-O-L-A. We know from prior episodes where we talked about the waves of immigration, that most of the folks who came to the US from Italy were from those southern regions; Naples, Sicily, Campania, those areas, and they brought with them their pronunciation for words. So fasule eventually became fazool.

James (12:21):
Interesting. Good history lesson there. And I think you did it better than most because I’ve even tried to look this up. And often we’ll get the comments on the videos. A lot of them are nasty comments from Italians. I would assume people in Italy, but often, I don’t know. It could just be some troll in the Midwest of America, but they’ll be like, “That’s not it,” but this is a book. When is this book?

Tara (12:53):
I do have a book. For those who are listening, I am just showing our camera.

James (13:02):
Those who are watching.

Tara (13:03):
No, but for those who are listening, I’m showing you a page of a book. This is a cookbook that I purchased when I visited Sicily in 2002 and they have a recipe for their version of pasta fazool, which is called pasta ca fasola. So it’s beans and pasta. And just to show the variation in dishes to further illustrate that, this is very different because it’s not made with a short pasta. They use tagliatelle and they use a cauliflower in it. The rest of it is similar. So they use an onion, they use the borlotti beans, they use pork rind, and olive oil.

James (13:43):

Tara (13:45):
And that’s how it’s spelled in Sicilian: pasta ca fasola.

James (13:50):
This book’s about what, late 90s, it was probably written? Probably the copyright? Maybe it’s a little earlier. I wonder-

Tara (14:00):
Well, let’s see. Copyright is 2001.

James (14:00):
I looked through this. Every single word is different than what you would see when you’re Googling the recipe on an Italian food blog, say.

Tara (14:09):
Yeah. A lot of their words will end with a U, which, in normal Italian, it does not. For example, the word for couscous, they have a recipe in here for couscous Trapani style, it’s [foreign language 00:14:25]. [foreign language 00:14:27], which is pasta with chickpeas, is [foreign language 00:14:29]. Ca is with, as opposed to in Italian, it’s eh.

James (14:37):
E, right?

Tara (14:37):
Which is end.

James (14:37):
Eh, eh.

Tara (14:37):

James (14:39):
Yeah, that’s going to throw people off in general is just even seeing a couscous dish because most people wouldn’t even think that… Again, I know we’re talking Sicilian and this isn’t Italian. They are two distinct…

Tara (14:53):
There are. There’s a lot of North African influence in Sicilian food.

James (14:59):
Well, obviously, we can devote many episodes about the difference between different parts of Italy and whatnot, but again, we take an approach towards the stuff that is here in New York, and the stuff that is here in New York and came from that 1880 to 1920 great migration, which a lot of those people were Sicilian and obviously the other areas, Southern Italian areas that Tara spoke about before. It’s an interesting thing. It really is, but the scope of that’s outside of today’s podcast. I think we should go into pasta fazool.

Overhead shot of two bowls of pasta fagioli and block of parmesan on cutting board.

Story time

Tara (15:36):
Yeah. I do want you to talk about how to make it. Before we do that, I know you were telling me that you had a little bit of an interesting story about pasta fazool. Do you want to share that?

James (15:48):
I got a lot of stories about pasta fazool. One story, and I think I alluded to it right in the beginning here, was it was the food that I had to eat the most growing up. For better or worse, my mother didn’t have 500 dishes, and I think that’s very common with most mothers, probably your mother, probably your Nona. There are examples where maybe they had a huge repertoire, but for the most part, it’s for the reason why it was always Sunday sauce and meatballs on Sunday and occasionally, special occasion, some braciole or sausages in there and whatnot. But the pasta fazool was definitely a common weeknight dish that my mother would frequently make, and she never made a variation of it. It was always the exact same version. She’s not listening here, but it is a little bit in jest.

It is just a little odd. I think it’s a generational thing too, because we will see in comments, “My Nona had the best recipe.” And it’s almost like a time capsule where things don’t change. You can change these recipes at any moment but my mother didn’t, and I got a little bored of it. I got a little bored, and speaking for my brother here, I know he would say the same thing. But then probably after I got out of high school, went to college, did a little cooking in college for my friends, and then got my first place, the desire for pasta fazool, the way my mother made it, came back so I started making it. But I think when I was on that regimen of every week or every two weeks, it was a little too much.

Tara (17:39):
You get tired of things if you eat it over and over again.

James (17:39):

Tara (17:42):

James (17:43):
Before I tell my other story, I’ll let you tell your story.

Tara (17:46):
I have actually the opposite backstory when it comes to pasta fazool of you. Do you know that I’d never ate pasta fazool in my life until I was in my 20s?

James (18:01):
I find it crazy because your grandmother was Italian.

Tara (18:04):
But again, my grandma… We spoke about this before. My grandma who was Italian, she passed away when I was in second grade. And when she would have us over, it would be for the Sunday meal, so it would be the meatballs and the sauce and the salad and whatever else she would make. But that was really what I remember her making. Now, I don’t remember her making pasta fazool or talking about it. I don’t really remember my dad talking about it, although I should probably ask him. I know he did mention that when she would make chicken soup, she would make it with orzo. So I know that about her, but I really do have to spend some time with my dad getting a better understanding of some of the meals that she would make.

James (18:54):
And she was Sicilian?

Tara (18:56):
She was Sicilian from Caltabellota. That’s where-

James (18:57):
That’s so interesting.

Tara (19:01):
Her family was from. So I’m sure she made pasta fazool. Maybe it just wasn’t a big thing, or maybe my grandfather hated it. Maybe he didn’t like it. I mean, he was-

James (19:10):
Yeah, that’s true. Maybe he was like me when I was in 11th grade.

Tara (19:16):
Yeah, I mean, he was Irish. So maybe he-

James (19:17):
Maybe he just wanted corn beef.

Tara (19:21):
Maybe he hated it. So I don’t know and unfortunately, my grandparents are long gone. When my grandma died, my grandpa followed a year and a half later.

James (19:30):
That’s normally what happens.

Tara (19:31):
I was so young. I didn’t get to really know them in a way that I would’ve wanted. Anyway, my first time having pasta fazool was… I worked for Bear Stearns. I worked in the metro tech office, which was in downtown Brooklyn, and they had a cafeteria that was there. I think it was on the fifth floor, and that’s where everybody would go, run down, you grab your lunch, go back to your desk and eat it. One of my coworkers, she would get the pasta fazool all the time. She was like, “Oh, it’s so good. I love their pasta fazool,” because they would have it, I think, on Wednesdays. So one day I was like, “Oh, I’m going to try it. I got myself a little cup of the pasta fazool and I was like, “Oh, wow! This is really good.” And actually, they made it very similar to the way you make it. It was not tomatoey at all. It was very light. Maybe there was one tomato across the whole pot of it, but it was creamy and it was delicious, and I really, really liked it.

James (20:25):

Tara (20:26):
But that’s the first time I had it.

James (20:28):
I can’t believe that. That’s crazy. I’ll tell you one story. Now, I could tell this story a different way and basically lie about it because it is kind of… I’m sure people who don’t like me will get a kick out of this more or think that I’m such a New York doofus, but it was probably… I think it was the second or third place I worked at and they would have soups, two soups per day, so specials. I would always come in the morning and the customers, they want to know what the special soups are. I would always ask somebody who was already there, who got there earlier than me, who opened the place, and I said, “What’s the soup today?” She said, “Oh, Jim, you’re going to love this. We have chicken noodle,” which we always had chicken noodle then it was one different one. So she’s like, “We got chicken noodle and pasta e fagioli.” And I said, “I never heard of that. What is that?”

So I started looking, we were looking in the pot, the two of us, she has the big ladle. She’s like, “It’s beans in this small pasta.” And I go, “I don’t know what you just said.” I go, “That’s pasta fazool.” And then I go, “That’s my mom’s pasta fazool.” And then I think it was the owner or the cook, I think it was the guy in the back, and he’s like, “Jim, it’s the same thing.” So I was just an idiot, 17-year-old who didn’t know. And I think that was when I first learned that pasta fagioli and pasta fazool are indeed the same thing. And they made it exactly how my mother made it. So that’s back to before saying how the way I originally described it is how most places will indeed make it.

Tara (22:13):

James (22:14):

Tara (22:14):
That’s a good story.

James (22:16):
It’s more ammunition for Jim being a moron.

Large wooden ladle holding pasta fagioli over Dutch oven pot.

How to make it

Tara (22:21):
So how do you make it?

James (22:21):
It doesn’t normally have meat, but you can absolutely have meat in it. Typically, probably the oldest versions, if you go all the way back to the Roman Empire that Tara was saying with black-eyed peas, but I don’t think anybody’s making it with black-eyed peas anymore. But it would probably always be started with lard. More modern way to do it is you can use lard or you can just take about four or five ounces of pancetta and start it that way.

Tara (22:44):
Can you use bacon?

James (22:46):
Yes, you can use bacon if you want, or if you want to do a vegetarian version, just go straight for olive oil. All that pancetta does is… What does it do, Tara?

Tara (22:57):
It gives you fat.

James (22:58):
Gives you fat.

Tara (22:59):

James (22:59):
And you’ll notice a theme in all Italian cooking, but not just that, all cooking in any cuisine, you must always start-

Tara (23:08):
You must start with a fat.

James (23:08):
You must always start with a fat. All cooking is the same, whether it’s Italian food, French food, Asian food, whatever, you must start with fat. Even if you have an air fryer. They got that place MÓGŪ next to us now. They’re making Chinese food with no oil or something? Like, no wax?

Tara (23:29):
That’s my understanding. I don’t know. I haven’t been there, so I can’t say.

James (23:32):
Yeah. But no, for the most part, you have to use fat when you start dishes. So for pasta fazool, you’re going to start with your fat, whether it’s pancetta or oil. Then you’re going to, right after that, add your garlic in. And if you want to do onion and garlic, you probably start with your onion first, maybe about five minutes, seven minutes. Get it translucent, then add your garlic in. I typically like to just use garlic. Put the garlic in, if you want, hot red pepper flakes. After that garlic gets golden a couple minutes and you’re on about medium heat here, maybe a little bit less than medium, then you would add your hot red pepper flakes 30 seconds after that, then you can put in water or stock. And if you are going to use tomatoes, you would put your tomatoes in first and cook them in that oil, garlic mixture for a couple minutes. So I typically will take only a couple tomatoes.

Tara (24:21):
You’ll take a can of whole plum tomatoes, and you just pull out what one or two tomatoes from that can?

James (24:27):
Yeah, I think I have three in the recipe and in a 28 ounce can of plum tomatoes, which 28 ounces is your standard American can, I always say that in our videos because I think I always want to tell people what are the standard unit of measurements. It’s always a 28 ounce. We’re not talking the big cans that restaurants use. And then it’ll also be a six ounce can of tomato paste, which is another standard unit can.

Tara (24:54):
Now, could you use tomato paste instead of using the canned tomatoes?

James (25:00):
Definitely. And I’m almost positive they do that in Sicily because Sicily uses so much tomato paste. That’s where the most of the tomato paste in Italy is made and probably used.

Tara (25:10):

James (25:12):
Yeah, but I just use a couple of tomatoes and then you put your liquid in. I would start maybe four to five cups. Now, this depends if you’re going to do a half a pound of pasta or a full pound of pasta. But you would get them in there, then with the liquid, you can remove all the brown bits on the bottom of your pan and then you can get… And you’re doing this in a Dutch oven pot or whatnot, and you add your beans in. Now, if you’re going to use fresh beans, like dried beans, and you would do that the night before where you would cook them and get them soft because you can soften them yourself at this point but your dish will take a very long time then.

Tara (25:49):
Yeah, yeah.

James (25:49):
Then you can use an instapot or something like that. But you guys know how I feel about a instapot, so. I mean, listen, instapot is a good tool for making beans. If you remember, definitely do it then, but I normally just reach for the canned beans.

Tara (26:03):
The canned beans.

James (26:04):
So much easier.

Tara (26:05):
Yeah, that’s what I use too.

James (26:08):
The price difference used to be a lot greater, so you used to be able to… A bag of dried beans used to be 89 cents, and the cans were like 69 cents to a dollar. Normally, it takes about three and a half of those cans, of those 16 ounce cans. So there would be a good arbitrage there between dried beans and cans. Now remember, you’re not pricing in your labor, which your labor is a part of it. When you price in your labor after using dried beans, it might actually exceed the canned beans. But now I noticed that dried beans are $2 or more for a pound, and still, you’ll find the cans often at Stop & Shop as a loss-leader for still that same price. So it’s not as much of a difference anymore.

When time is tight, and I know many of you are cooking for your families, what could have happened didn’t so you got to be able to make that adjustment right away. So you get your canned beans in there, you let them cook, and then you can add your pasta into your pot of liquid. The beauty of doing this dish and cooking the dried pasta in your bean and water and garlic broth and everything is that the pasta’s going to release a starch and it’s going to absorb the flavor of the liquid, making it very creamy, almost like you put cream in it when you didn’t.

Can you do this the other way? Boil your pasta separately? Of course, you can. I do think it’s far superior to do it the way that you’re cooking the pasta in the broth, which is a very, very common technique from this dish to pasta e ceci to pasta puta to pasta lenticchie, pasta con broccoli, the list goes on and on, you would do this for it. But you can do all those dishes by not doing that too. Just doing your pasta separately.

Tara (28:02):
Would you ever use wine?

James (28:04):
Then you’re getting away from the past-

Tara (28:05):
It’s a little fancy.

James (28:06):
Yeah, you’re getting a little bit more fancy. And I do do it a little bit. My recipe has a little bit of rosemary in there too, so that is a little bit more fancy, I would say.

Tara (28:15):
It is.

James (28:16):

Tara (28:17):
But I do think it adds good flavor and it compliments the beans.

James (28:20):
It’s a beautiful flavor. My only concern is always that recipe, our pasta fazool, it treads closely to our Tuscan bean soup. Our Tuscan beans soup is-

Tara (28:32):
But the bean soup does not have-

James (28:33):
…Blended. It doesn’t have pasta.

Tara (28:34):
And it has carrots, right?

James (28:36):
Yeah. It has the sofrito.

Tara (28:36):
It has the sofrito.

James (28:38):

Tara (28:38):
I think it’s different.

James (28:40):
And when you’re making a “Tuscan soup” or whatever, a northern Italian thing, you would definitely have a sofrito. But when you’re doing pasta fazool in that southern way, you probably wouldn’t have the sofrito, though you definitely can. You definitely can.

Tara (29:00):
It’s really one of those dishes that, like I said earlier, varies from region to region. And we talked about how the Sicilian version, at least according to this cookbook…

James (29:12):
That’s just one version of it.

Tara (29:13):
Is completely different. But even that it differs between members of the same family. So it’s just something that I think continues to morph and evolve depending on what’s available to you, even what mood you’re in. Your recipe can be one way one week, and then the next week it’s something different.

James (29:32):
Well, that’s what I like about these dishes. Once you learn the technique of how to do this, you can take any ingredient you want and do it with it. There’s ones that we’re going to do is for the fall, you could take a pumpkin and then you get the pumpkin puree from it, and then you would cook your pasta in the pumpkin puree.

Tara (29:53):
That sounds really good.

James (29:54):

Tara (29:55):

James (29:57):
Any dish like that is possible, or you could do a butternut squash.

Tara (30:04):
Forgive me if you said this already, would you add a Parmigiano Reggiano rind to it?

James (30:10):
I do. I do add it most of the time. If you got your rinds, definitely do it. Any soup like that is the time to use your rinds.

Tara (30:17):
Yeah. Now, when you serve it, when you serve pasta fazool for dinner, are you serving it as the main course and how are you finishing it when you serve it?

James (30:31):
This is a common issue, too, where you want to be Italian, you’re always going to have those courses. If you want to be an American, you’re always going to serve the pasta fazool as your main course. A lot of places like deli’s and restaurants, this is such a peasant dish that you’ll rarely see pasta fazool at a restaurant. That’s another-

Tara (30:57):
Yeah, it’s like a pizzeria where you can get it.

James (30:58):
That’s another consideration.

Tara (31:00):
And delis.

James (31:01):
Yeah, and obviously, the chain restaurants like Carrabba’s and Olive Garden will have it, but you’re not going to find it at a more fine dining establishment for the most part. And if you do see it, though, at one of those places, they’re going to charge you a lot for it. And then you’re like, “Oh man, this costs $3 to make and they want to charge me $18 for a bowl of it.” If we ever open up a restaurant, we should serve $18 bowls of pasta fazool, Tara.

Tara (31:32):
Never charge anybody $18 for pasta fazool.

James (31:36):
They are charging so much for everything lately. It’s out of control what’s going on.

Tara (31:42):
Everything is extremely expensive and not affordable. All right, so anything else you want to talk about with regards to pasta fazool?

Large wooden spoon scooping sausage pasta fagioli.

Sausage pasta fazool recipe.

James (31:51):
I just want to tell people, Tara, to make it your own. I have two videos on the channel. We have the regular pasta fazool. We did a sausage pasta fazool where I did larger pasta. I made it brothier, I did it with penne. Since we were already using sausage, I said, “Let’s go for the chicken stock here.” I really want you to make it your own. Does it have to be cannellini beans? Does it have to be borlotti beans? No way. If you want to use fava beans, if you want to… Once you add chickpeas in there, you’re essentially making pasta e ceci, but if you have just… What are those white beans that aren’t cannellini beans?

Tara (32:29):
Navy beans?

James (32:30):
Yeah, navy beans. It’s all about using what you have. If you want to put an anchovy or two in the oil after your garlic, that would be great. You can make this completely vegan. You can make this for a meat eater. It’s really versatile.

Tara (32:44):
It is.

James (32:44):
And then change up the pasta. So my grandmother would always… And my mother, to this day, does this. She would always, because she would always be making different size portions of it. She would have all these different shapes of pasta in, and this’ll ring true to you if you grew up with your grandmother and she had the basement kitchen. There would be like quarter pound of this or six ounces of this one. It’d be like, oh, the little pastina and then orzo, and then ditalini and farfalle. What was the little farfalline?

Tara (33:16):
Yeah, those are the little bow ties.

James (33:17):
Those little bow ties are great in the beef soup. The beef soup and the chicken-

Tara (33:21):
Chicken soup.

James (33:22):
And the chicken soup.

Tara (33:22):

James (33:22):
But yeah, she would have all these different types and you can mix and match this, or you can do spaghetti or linguini and crack it as we did in the zucchini soup.

Tara (33:32):
That’s right. The broken spaghetti…

James (33:34):
The broken spaghetti soup.

Tara (33:35):
Yep, yep.

James (33:36):
All right, let me stop it. So I hope this little talk about pasta fazool will encourage you if you haven’t made it to make it. I also hope it encourages you to not follow those really, really bad recipes online that are saying Olive Garden copycat. That’s not what this dish is. It shouldn’t be a medley of colors. I don’t know if I stressed that enough in this, Tara. Did I or I didn’t?

Tara (34:05):
Well, it should be what you want it to be, right?

James (34:05):
So you’re going to be the devil’s advocate here?

Tara (34:05):
I’m going to be devil’s advocate.

James (34:11):

Tara (34:11):
Yeah. Is Olive Garden using probably an authentic recipe? No, probably not. I never had anything good from the Olive Garden. I don’t like the Olive Garden. I don’t enjoy it. I think the last time I was there was when I was in my early 20s. So yeah, you probably don’t want to use an Olive garden copycat recipe. I would say if you [inaudible 00:34:36]-

James (34:35):
Why would you want to copy the olive Garden?

Tara (34:39):
Well, that’s… Yeah.

James (34:40):
That’s a different discussion.

Tara (34:41):
That’s a different discussion. But at the same time, if you like the medley of different things, then make it. I think that’s what our message always is to you, is to make it your own.

James (34:55):
It is.

Tara (34:56):
If you like it, you eat it. If you don’t like it, don’t eat it and don’t knock other people for eating it.

James (35:02):
So since I am knocking it, what I’m saying is, and I’ve said this in previous episodes, if you don’t want to use my recipe, use some other recipe that looks a little bit less involved. There should not be 78 ingredients for pasta fazool.

Tara (35:19):
There shouldn’t be Italian seasoning in it.

James (35:22):
If you ever see a recipe with Italian seasoning, run! Run, and don’t ever go back to that website. I’m putting my foot down on that right now. Nothing good will come from any food that has that seasoning in it. It’s disgusting. Why would you combine a bunch of stuff into something? Imagine if I put a bunch of stuff together and call it Chinese seasoning. It’ll get me in trouble, but it wouldn’t even… There’s no such thing. The closest thing you would have for that would be five spice. It’s called Chinese five spice, but that’s really only used when you’re making the ribs, the Chinese ribs, which I love. And then you cut those up for the pork fried rice. “Oh, I’m going to break out my American seasoning now and then I’ll get my Canadian seasoning.” Actually, Canadians do have a seasoning. They have the Montreal.

Tara (36:09):
The Montreal.

James (36:09):
The Montreal-

Tara (36:09):
But do they or is that an American thing that Americans said, “This is what they use in Montreal. I’m going to combine it and package it”?

James (36:16):
I think we will never-

Tara (36:18):
I don’t know.

James (36:18):
We won’t ever know. If you know, let us know in the comments. All right, we’re going to move into the questions.

Roast chicken being sliced with fork and knife.

Our roast chicken recipe.

Question 1 – Roasting a whole chicken

Tara (36:24):
Okay, Jim, this first question is from Bob. “When roasting a whole chicken, the common theme is to remove the chicken from the oven when the breast is at 160 degrees Fahrenheit and the dark meat is at 175 degrees Fahrenheit. On America’s Test Kitchen, they just take this beautiful roasted chicken out of the oven and measure the breast at 160 degrees Fahrenheit, but they never temp the dark meat. The same thing when cooking a spatchcock bird. They show no method of achieving this, like tenting the breast, et cetera. So how do they achieve this? If the dark meat is 175 degrees Fahrenheit, the white meat has to be overcooked. Do you know the secret of accomplishing this? Or is this just another mirage from the cooking gurus?”

James (37:07):
Well, Bob, the way you’re describing it is that they don’t hit the 175 degrees Fahrenheit on the dark meat, right? That’s the question. They’re not hitting it. Look, my opinion: roasting a chicken is really… Where do you go to get a roast chicken in France? They’re like-

Tara (37:25):
The brasserie?

James (37:27):
Well, it’s more of an inexpensive place that you go to.

Tara (37:29):
A bistro?

James (37:30):
A bistro maybe. What was that place in Maine that we went to? It was a little French place that closed down.

Tara (37:36):
98 Provence?

James (37:37):
Yeah, something like that you go into.

Tara (37:41):
Yeah. I would say that’s more like a bistro.

James (37:43):
Yeah, like a bistro. I might be wrong. There might be another term, but it’s a place where you go where you have no-nonsense food. And when I think of a no-nonsense food, I think of a roast chicken. I’ll tie up a roast chicken sometimes, sometimes I’ll spatchcock it, which, for those of you who don’t know what that means, spatchcock is when you remove the backbone and you flatten the chicken. So in theory, it will cook at a more even rate. I like to do this when I put them on the grill, but as far as a roast chicken goes, Bob, I will just roast the chicken until I hit my target temperature, which is 160 degrees, and I’ll remove it. Will my dark meat be 175 degrees or 180 degrees or 190 degrees, which it’s good at and better?

And the reason dark meat is better is because the muscle fibers in it start to break down and make the meat more tender. When you only cook dark meat till 165 degrees, it’s not as good as it can be. But yeah, Bob, I’ll often just roast to that 160 degrees and I’ll be okay with it. And I’m telling you, most places are… Not most, almost all places are doing this. Now, again, from the question, I don’t know if he meant to ask did America’s Test Kitchen take the bird apart and do it? I know Alton Brown did this shield, like this foil shield technique I saw.

Tara (38:55):
That was for a Turkey, wasn’t it?

James (38:57):
But the same thing would work for a chicken.

Tara (38:59):
Yeah, the shield was for the breast, right?

James (39:02):
Yeah, because you wanted the breast not to cook as fast. You want that dark meat to cook faster and the breast to be to stay below that 160 degrees.

Tara (39:11):
Yeah, so it doesn’t get tough.

James (39:12):

Tara (39:13):

James (39:14):
But again, I couldn’t really understand by the question.

Tara (39:17):
Well, he said that what’s happening is they’ll take it out of the oven and they’ll only check the temperature for the breast, and they never check the temperature on the dark meat.

James (39:27):
That’s how it’s done, Bob. You got to worry about the breast because you don’t want to cook your breast to 180 degrees to hit your dark meat. You got to worry about the breast. Now, you could take your chicken out, let it sit for five minutes so the juices stay in, you could remove your breasts and then tent them with foil and then throw the chicken back in the oven, I suppose. But roast chicken, I’m trying to be real simple. Maybe I have potatoes on a baking sheet and just throwing everything in the oven for a good, easy weeknight dinner. I don’t know if that answered your question, Bob.

Question 2 – Why only Italian recipes?

Tara (40:05):
We keep getting questions about this. This is another one that came in, so I figured let’s talk about it. And I think part of it, we’ve already talked about it, but the question is are both you and Tara 100% Italian-American? If not, why don’t you do other recipes from your other nationalities or talk about that heritage?

James (40:28):
It’s a good question. What’s her name? Do you know?

Tara (40:28):
I think the question actually came in on YouTube. It was a screen name, and so I didn’t know what the person’s name was.

James (40:34):
Okay, it’s a good question. Sorry, we didn’t write down your name and I hope you’re listening to this one. I’ll back it up. I’m half Italian. It’s my mother’s side. She’s 100%. And I’ve said this. I think I said this in a very recent episode.

Tara (40:47):
You did.

James (40:48):
Okay. I did, so no need to go more into that, but that was the food that I had growing up. It was the only food that we were, I always joke, we were allowed to eat. And there’s a lot of truth to that. And my experience is probably very, very similar to many of you who grew up in New York, New Jersey, Philadelphia. I always exclude Philadelphia and I shouldn’t do that. Originally, I started the website and I had different recipes. In fact, I think the first recipe I ever put on the site was, what, Tara? It was a miso eggplant, right?

Tara (41:23):
Mm-hmm. That’s right.

James (41:24):
Which we just updated, so that one’s still on the site. But anyway, I was trying my hand at different things. I did French braised short ribs. I had a variety of ethnic cuisines, but I started taking to heart a lot of brand building advice and stuff and it said, “You got to focus on a niche.”

Tara (41:53):
The riches are in the niches.

James (41:53):
The riches are in the niches. There’s a lot of truth to this. There are people that have succeeded outside of it. A couple of them would be like Joshua Weissman. He just makes everything. That would be fairly typical for a Jewish-American like him. I mean, what is he going to do? He has to do everything. And there’s other people on YouTube that are the same way. Like Sam the Cooking Guy, he just makes everything. And there’s a lot of people like this. There’s not a lot. There’s a few of them that are successful. But for me, my knowledge base, the main knowledge base that I have is in Italian-American food, specifically the food from New York. I’ve kind of like an encyclopedia on it because I’ve lived here my whole life. And again, it was the only food that I was able to really eat growing up. Does that answer the question, I guess, or?

Tara (42:45):
I guess it does, but you don’t talk about food from your other…

James (42:52):
Oh, my other heritage?

Tara (42:52):
Your other heritage.

James (42:57):
Okay. My dad’s grandfather was adopted so there’s a break in that ethnicity knowing, and there was no cooking in his family. His mother was Irish, his father was a union docks worker. It was meat and potatoes. And my dad grew up in an apartment in Bushwick. Not a good place. And food wasn’t really a part of what they had growing up. My dad now, I think that’s part of the reason why he married my mom, was just so he can have… I think that’s part of the reason why your father married Angie. My dad wanted, I guess, some better food. But no, there’s no long-lost recipes on my father’s side of the family and my dad doesn’t cook.

Tara (43:50):
For me, to answer my part: no, I am not 100% Italian-American. I am probably 25% Italian and that is from my dad’s mother, who was 100% Sicilian. She was the one who did all the cooking. My grandfather who was Irish and probably a little bit Dutch because my last name is Dutch, I don’t think he cooked anything. He relied on my grandma to cook everything. And my mom was raised by her grandma who was Czechoslovakian but lived here in the US. She was, I think, first generation Czech. She was single, a widow. She was also an executive for, I think, New York Bell, the telephone company that was there. So she had zero interest in cooking. I think she was a terrible cook. When my mom met and married my dad, my mom learned how to cook from my grandmother.

My dad’s mom taught my mom how to cook. That was Italian food, not pasta fazool because again, never really had it. But she did teach my mom how to make Sunday sauce and a few other recipes. But really, I didn’t really know any Czech or Irish or any other, really, types of cuisine that would link to my ancestors or my heritage other than Italian food. And my dad was really just obsessed with Italian food and he still is to this day. It’s like every Sunday he would watch The Godfather.

James (45:37):
That’s New Yorkers in general. Those are all the restaurants that were here. Another part of this is the whole cultural appropriation issue is an issue that is… I don’t know if it’s gaining steam or if it’s ending now. It really depends which way you see things politically. And also, depending on which way you see the country going is either really good or really bad depending on how you are politically. We don’t talk about politics here, but I’d be an idiot to not know what’s going on with some other bloggers who have been accused of cultural appropriation. It’s silly. I don’t want to be involved in that. I don’t want to do it. I just make the food I grew up with and that’s why we always label our site Italian-American. It’s like a lot of people like to bash it and there’s two types of people that bash it.

It’s people from Italy who probably aren’t from Southern Italy, and it’s a lot of people in America. A lot. It’s maybe people that didn’t grow up here in New York. People who grew up in here in New York who have Italian roots, they love this food. They have family members that own pizzerias, delis, butchers, cheese shops, bakeries, and they’re all making… No matter what they say. If they say it’s Italian food, they are making a variation from… They’ve been here two, three generations. They are making food for Americans. It’s Italian-American food and the people here love this food. They love it. It could be some younger kids who maybe read Reddit a little too much, trying to make things how they once were. But that’s not how they’re going to be. They are how they are here for that 100 years of people living here or more.

Tara (47:34):
And evolving and adapting to what’s available with it.

James (47:38):
Yeah. There’s nothing wrong with it. There’s nothing wrong with liking this type of food here. If you don’t, this isn’t the right podcast for you and my videos aren’t the right videos for you. If you think that carbonara must be made with guanciale and it can’t be made with bacon or pancetta, this isn’t the right channel for you. That’s fine. We agree to disagree. That’s it, but I’m going to keep doing what I’m going to do and you’re going to keep doing what you’re going to do.

Tara (48:09):
That’s right.

James (48:10):
All right, so we had two questions today. I was hoping for a kiss, marry, kill, but maybe next week, right?

Tara (48:14):
Yeah, I think so. We’ll add one for next week.

James (48:17):
If you give me some crazy kiss, marry, kill, I’m not going to be able to do it. If you put three saints there, I’m not going to be able to pick. If you pick three really bad people, that’s kind of tough too.

Tara (48:29):
That is. That is.

James (48:30):
So remember, don’t forget to submit your questions to We always include two or three at the end of each episode. We will see you next time.

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