The name pasta e fagioli might seem fancy, but it’s not. It’s quite the opposite, really. Pasta e fagioli means pasta and beans in Italian. So really, it’s just peasant food. Not that there’s anything wrong with peasant food. In fact, some of the best foods are peasant foods. Those peasants really knew what to do with those inexpensive ingredients, like pasta and beans.
Pronounced “pasta fazool” after the Neapolitan pronunciation of “fasule” for beans, pasta e fagioli has many different incantations, depending on the region and the cook. Some regions have a more soupy, brothy consistency while others have a thicker, stew-ish texture. Some are vegetarian, while some include sausage, bacon, or pancetta. The only true requirement is that both pasta and beans be present in the dish.
Pasta e Fagioli
- 1 medium onion, rough chop
- 3 celery stalks, washed and rough chopped
- 2 medium carrots, peeled and rough chopped
- 4-5 garlic cloves, peeled
- 2-3 sprigs rosemary, leaves pulled from stems
- ½ cup good quality olive oil
- ½ tsp red pepper flakes
- 1 – 28oz can whole San Marzano tomatoes
- 2 – 14oz cans cannellini beans, rinsed
- 2 cups chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
- 1 tsp salt
- ½ lb (8oz) dried small pasta, such as orecchiette, ditalini or tubetti
- ½ cup parmesan, grated
Place onion, celery, carrots, garlic and rosemary in the bowl of a food processor. Process until finely chopped, but not pureed. Heat olive oil in a heavy bottomed pot, add vegetables and red pepper flakes. Sauté until vegetables are soft, but not browned, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, puree tomatoes with juice in the bowl of a food processor. When vegetables are soft, add tomatoes, beans and stock or water and salt. Stir well. Simmer, uncovered over medium-low heat for 20-25 minutes until some of the liquid has evaporated and it has thickened slightly. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions for al dente. Even if the pasta is a little underdone for your preference, don’t worry. It will continue to cook in the beans for a few minutes. Just before you drain the pasta, reserve ½ cup of the pasta cooking liquid in case you need it to thin out the sauce. After the tomato and bean mixture has simmered and consistency is to your liking add the cooked, drained pasta. If it becomes too thick, add some of the reserved pasta cooking water until it reaches the desired consistency. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve with parmesan cheese and a crusty bread and a salad.
- This dish can easily become vegetarian or vegan. Use water or vegetable stock in place of the chicken stock and for vegans, omit the parmesan. Instead drizzle with a good quality olive oil or rosemary olive oil.