I fell in love with this dish when I first started traveling to Italy in the seventies. I ordered it whenever I saw it on the menu and discovered that many different versions existed.
Basically, pasta e fagioli is pasta and beans. Some recipes are very simple – a broth with very few ingredients other than pasta and beans. Most often recipes include pancetta and some include ground beef. This recipe is a result of combining my favorites. It is a hearty version.
I prefer serving it as a main course on a cold wintry night with just crusty bread and a simple salad. It’s a great dish to have in your refrigerator during the holidays to serve the night before or night after the holiday meal. However, it doesn’t have to be cold outside. I can eat pasta e fagioli any time of the year!
Serves 8 – 10 as a main course
- 1-tablespoon olive oil
- 3 oz. pancetta chopped fine
- 1 cup finely chopped onion
- 2 teaspoons finely diced garlic
- ¾ cup finely chopped celery
- ¾ cup finely chopped carrots
- ¼ cup finely chopped parsley
- 1 ½ pound ground beef
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary crumbled
- 1 ½ teaspoon dried basil
- ¼ teaspoon dried chili pepper flakes
- 1 28 oz. can diced tomatoes
- 2 cups (16 oz.) tomato sauce *
- 5 cups veal or beef stock
- 3 (15 oz) cans of cannellini beans, drained & rinsed
- 1-teaspoon salt
- Freshly ground pepper
- 8 oz. tubetti pasta cooked al dente
- Parmesan cheese for grating
- Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
*We use Convito’s Tomato Basil Sauce sold in our freezer. You can make your own tomato sauce or buy one of the jarred versions.
Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large stockpot over medium high heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until browned approximately 5 minutes. Add the onions, garlic, celery, carrots and parsley and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes or until vegetables are soft. Add the ground beef, rosemary, basil & chili pepper flakes. Crumble the meat into tiny pieces with the edge of a wooden spoon. Cook, continuing to crumble just until it loses its raw red color but has not browned about 3 minutes.
Add tomatoes, tomato sauce and stock and bring to a simmer stirring until all ingredients are incorporated. Puree 1 can of the beans. Add to the soup. Mix well. Add the other two cans of beans. Turn the heat to low and simmer until the flavors meld approximately 15 to 20 minutes.
Add the pasta and mix well. Ladle the soup into individual bowls. Drizzle with olive oil and serve immediately with grated Parmesan cheese.
Pasta note: You can add the pasta to the soup after the beans are added cooking al dente according to the cooking time on the pasta package. I prefer to cook the pasta separately and add it just before serving since I usually keep the soup in the refrigerator for leftovers and feel the pasta does not remain al dente with reheating. I toss the cooked pasta with a little olive oil to prevent sticking. I have also frozen the leftovers.