Sausage pasta fagioli is a new twist on an old classic. This hearty pasta dish combines crumbled sausage, garlic, and butter beans that are simmered with penne pasta in a tomato-based broth. Serve in bowls with plenty of Parmigiano Reggiano and crusty bread to mop up all the wonderful sauce!
I am always thinking of ways to put a spin on some classic recipes.
I love pasta e fagioli, aka pasta fazool, but sometimes I want a change and that’s what helped inspire sausage pasta fagioli.
Want to learn more about pasta fagioli? We discuss the roots of the dish in episode 18 of The Sip and Feast Podcast – Pasta Fazool.
The best way to describe this dish is pasta fazool, but giant-sized!
I swapped the tiny pasta for full-sized penne, added large butter beans (lima beans) in addition to the cannellini beans, and instead of pancetta I opted for sausage.
Altogether these ingredients make for an amped-up but still familiar wonderful and comforting meal that is easy to make in under an hour.
How to make it
Each number corresponds to the numbered written steps below.
- Slice 5 cloves of garlic and dice 1 medium onion. Drain 2 16-ounce cans of butter beans and 1 16-ounce can of cannellini beans (Photo #1). Note: lima and butter beans are the same thing. Depending on where you buy them they might be labeled one way or the other.
- In a large heavy pot, saute 1 pound of bulk Italian sausage over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes or until mostly cooked through (Photo #2).
- Once the sausage has almost cooked, create space in the pan, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil and saute the onions for 5 minutes, then add the garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes longer until golden. Add 1/4 teaspoon of red pepper flakes and cook for 30 seconds longer (Photo #3).
- Add 3 canned plum tomatoes. You can either crush them in the pan using a spoon or hand crush them prior to adding (Photo #4).
- Add 6 cups of water and the drained beans. Note: You can also use low-sodium chicken stock in place of the water (Photo #5).
- Add 1 Parmigiano Reggiano rind and bring to a boil for 3 minutes. Using a wooden spoon mash some of the beans against the side of the pot. You could also use an immersion blender (Photo #6). Note: The purpose of this process is to thicken the soup. Do more or less depending on how thick you want your sausage pasta fagioli to turn out.
- Add 8 ounces of uncooked penne pasta and allow the pasta to cook until al dente. Keep an eye on the pot and stir very frequently to prevent the pasta from sticking. The pasta will absorb much of the liquid so add more water as needed. The consistency is a personal choice here so if you want a soupier consistency, add more water/stock (Photo #7).
- Once the pasta is al dente, turn off the heat and taste test, adjusting salt, pepper, and red pepper to taste. Once satisfied, serve the sausage pasta fagioli in bowls with crusty bread. Offer grated cheese, black pepper, hot red pepper flakes, and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (Photo #8). Enjoy!
- The sausage. If you’re able to find bulk Italian sausage, I recommend using it for this recipe as it will save you some time. If you can’t find it, simply use sausage links and remove the sausage meat from the casing. I used mild Italian sausage with fennel for this recipe but you can also use hot Italian sausage, or a combination of the two if you prefer.
- Cooking the pasta. One of the things I love about this dish is that it allows the pasta to cook in the broth which helps to maximize the flavor of the pasta. If you’re planning on having leftovers and would like for your pasta to maintain its firmness, you may wish to consider cooking the pasta separately and adding only some of it once you’re ready to eat. The separate plain pasta can be saved for leftovers the next day.
- The consistency. Classic pasta e fagioli is usually on the soupier side, and you can definitely make sausage pasta fagioli as soupy, or as thick as you’d like. The key to achieving the perfect consistency is to use as much or as little water as you like bearing in mind that the pasta will soak up a decent amount of the liquid. Mashing more or less of the beans will also contribute to a thicker or soupier final dish.
- More flavor. I used water as the liquid for this dish but you can certainly use low-sodium chicken stock or broth in place of the water if you’d like even more flavor. Additionally, the Parmigiano Reggiano rind is listed as an optional ingredient, and not having one should not deter you from making sausage pasta fagioli, but if you do have one laying around I recommend adding it as it does impart wonderful flavor. I always recommend saving the rinds in your fridge for a rainy day!
More recipes for Italian sausage lovers
We love adding sausage to so many dishes as it adds a greater depth of flavor and texture. Here are a few of our favorites.
- Beans and greens sausage pasta – escarole, spinach, sausage, and cannellini beans with rigatoni.
- Pasta alla Norcina – sausage and pasta tossed in a creamy white wine sauce with a hint of nutmeg.
- Sausage and peppers rigatoni – classic combo of sausage and peppers tossed with pasta in a garlicky marinara.
If you’ve enjoyed this sausage pasta fagioli recipe or any recipe on this site, give it a 5-star rating and tell us about it in the comments below.
Sausage Pasta Fagioli
- 4 tablespoons olive oil divided
- 1 pound bulk Italian sausage
- 5 cloves garlic sliced
- 1 medium onion diced
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 16 ounce can cannellini beans drained, but don't rinse
- 2 16 ounce cans lima (butter 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!
- 8 ounces penne or any pasta you like
- 1 Parmigiano rind optional
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large heavy pot saute the sausage in two tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat until browned (about 5 minutes) and cooked through.
- Next, add in the remaining olive oil and 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 6 cups of water and the plum tomatoes. Add in the drained beans and the Parmigiano Reggiano rind and bring to a boil for 3 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.
- 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 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 and 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 such as ziti and cavatappi are a good size to match the larger beans in this dish.
- If you are cooking a large amount for 1 person and desire 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.
Nutrition information is automatically calculated, so should only be used as an approximation.