Pasta e fagioli, or pasta and beans, is sometimes called pasta fazul in this country, apparently because of the Neopolitan accent that softened the ‘fagioli’ to ‘fasule’ and then got corrupted to ‘fazul’.
For those non-italian americans like me who didn’t grow up with pasta e fagioli, let me just tell you this is a delicious, rustic and cheap-to-make bowl of comfort.
I’ve been watching a lot of italian cooking videos. My italian is not great, and everyone speaks too fast, but I can find my way through the simple recipes. I also have a Fiorentin cookbook (Il Club delle Cuoche) by Luisana Messeri which I have been slowly, painfully translating–as in one sentence every few months. But it’s fun and I feel like I’m learning a lot.
So far my research has taught me that the recipe for pasta e fagioli varies as much as a chili or a chicken noodle soup recipe does in this country–from blending all the soup together to blending half the beans or none of the beans at all.
I decided I want to make this dish 2 ways–the quickie version and the more traditional slow way. There is one step that should not be skipped and that’s soaking and cooking the dried beans (borlotti or cannellini). Please don’t use the canned stuff. They are mushy and not as nutritious.
Ingredients for quick pasta e fagioli
adapted from Cucina con Ale and Il Club delle Cuoche
500g or about 2 cups of beans
250g or about 4 cups of pasta
1 carrot chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 celery, chopped
1 onion chopped
1 bay leaf
1 small rind of parmesan
1 cup or 4 ladle spoons of passata or pureed tomatoes
vegetable stock (or water)
some of the pasta water
salt and pepper to taste
parmesan for garnish (optional)
1. The slow version (which I willl try next) involves soaking the beans overnight and cooking them directly in the soup. For my quick version, soak and cook the beans ahead of time and throw them in the soup near the end. You can do the overnight thing or use the quick-soak method (boil dried beans rapidly for 10 minutes, turn off heat and soak for 1 hour. Then cook about hour, hour and a half till tender).
2. Heat up a generous amount of olive oil in a soup pot or deep frying pan and gently cook the onion, garlic, bay leaf, carrot and celery till soft.
3. When the vegetables are soft, add in vegetable stock, the rind of parmesan, the passata and the beans. Let cook for about 10 minutes and taste. Add more seasoning if necessary. Remove the parmesan rind before serving.
4. While the soup is cooking, heat up salted water for the pasta. I used ziti but recommend a shorter pasta such as tubetti or ditalini. A popular choice is to throw in a mixed pasta selection–all the broken pieces at the bottom of your pasta container that have been adding up. Cook pasta a little under al dente as it will cook more once it’s in the sauce.
5. When the pasta is almost done, ladle it into the sauce. Add a little of the pasta water for thickening. Let cook for a couple minutes until the pasta is ready (chewy not mushy). The pasta will absorb some of the sauce so you need enough that it won’t completely cook away. On the soupy side is better, as I learned! You can see from my pic that I added a little too much pasta and did not have enough sauce. It was still delicious though and my daughter the soup monster ate every last bite.
6. Serve as is or with some parmesan and extra virgin olive oil. If you skip the parm then this is vegan!