Classic Pasta E Fagioli Recipe

Pasta e fagioli is a classic Italian dish made up of small pasta, beans, and broth, a combination that creates a texture that is somewhere between a soup and a stew. Different from its tomato-based vegetable soup cousin, minestrone, traditional pasta fagioli always uses white beans to create a thick and creamy base for its herby, brothy pasta. While this recipe guides you through making a classically thick stewed pasta e fagioli, you can make it your own by adding more broth, less beans, or double the pasta. One thing you shouldn't change, though: The delicious autumnal addition of rosemary and sage.

Developer Michelle McGlinn shares a classic pasta e fagioli recipe below using dried great northern beans, pancetta, and ditalini pasta. Her secret to a creamy, thick, and flavorful pasta is to add the rind from your fresh pecorino to the broth while it stews, so the broth takes on a robust cheesy flavor. This recipe is easy to make vegetarian, gluten free, and dairy free, too, by omitting the pancetta and swapping out the ditalini and chicken broth. And don't worry, the creaminess can still be achieved by mashing a few of the beans into the broth. For a delicious and versatile dish that will fill your kitchen with cozy herbal aromas, check out our classic pasta e fagioli recipe below.

Gather your pasta e fagioli ingredients

Like many classic Italian soups and stews, pasta e fagioli starts with celery, carrots, and onions. To add a rich, salty flavor, cook the trinity with pancetta, or swap the pancetta for finely chopped bacon. Mix in just enough tomato paste to add a tomato flavor, then add the fragrant rosemary and garlic. Fresh herbs taste best here, but you can swap for dried rosemary in a pinch.

Add the beans and the broth next, using soaked dried beans for the best flavor. For a fast, weeknight pasta e fagioli, you can use drained canned beans instead, which will become tender in less than half the time. Dried beans will take upwards of an hour, but during that hour the pecorino, rosemary, and aromatics will incense the stew with delicious flavor. Add in the pasta – we like classic ditalini – and sage last, and sprinkle with pecorino Romano or Parmesan to serve.

Sweat the vegetables

With a little bit of oil to prevent sticking, heat the vegetables and pancetta together in a large pot or dutch oven over medium heat. The vegetables will soften and the pancetta will slowly cook. Since we are cooking them all together, the pancetta won't get deeply browned, so be on the lookout for soft, glistening celery and onions. Oh, and an irresistibly good smell.

Once the vegetables have had a chance to cook down, stir in tomato paste so that it is well combined with the mixture, then add the garlic and rosemary. Thought the smell of pancetta and onions couldn't get any better? Just wait!

Stir in the beans

Whether you are using canned or dried beans, drain the beans and add to the pot. Cover with broth and bring to a boil, then reduce to a steady simmer and cook the beans until very tender — think mashable-with-a-spoon tender. Since canned beans are already cooked, you won't need to simmer very long at all (though we recommend it for better flavor). If using fresh pecorino Romano or Parmesan to garnish, cut the rind from the cheese and toss into the broth while it simmers for a seriously creamy and rich broth.

Cook the pasta

There's no wrong pasta to choose for pasta e fagioli, but small, hearty shapes work best for this thick bean soup. While it's traditional to use ditalini, you can also opt for small shells, orecchiette, or even macaroni. Toss the pasta and chopped sage into the broth and add more liquid if the mixture looks dry. Cook until the pasta is al dente or soft to your liking, then taste and season with salt and pepper. With the pancetta, fresh herbs and vegetables, and pecorino rind, you may only need a few pinches of each seasoning to perfect your soup.

Sprinkle on sage and serve

Add the sage on last to bring out its delicate flavors, heat through, and serve with a generous grating of peppery pecorino Romano. Serve this hearty soup alongside crusty homemade garlic bread, leafy green salad, or fresh caprese.

To save leftovers, save covered in your dutch oven or transfer to airtight containers and store in the refrigerator for up to five days. The noodles will absorb the broth while stored, so before reheating, add another cup or two of water or broth to loosen into a soup again. Bring leftovers to a gentle simmer on the stove or reheat in the microwave.

Classic Pasta E Fagioli Recipe
4.9 from 83 ratings
This pasta e fagioli, which is a white bean and pasta stew, is the perfect one-pot meal for a cool winter's night.
Prep Time
Cook Time
spoon in bowl of soup
Total time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 4 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • ¼ cup peeled and finely chopped carrot
  • ½ cup finely chopped celery
  • 1 yellow onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh rosemary
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
  • 1 pound dried white beans, soaked overnight
  • 8 cups chicken broth
  • ¼ cup grated pecorino Romano, plus the rind
  • Kosher salt, to taste
  • freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta
  • 1 tablespoon minced fresh sage leaves, plus whole leaves for garnish
  1. In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the pancetta, carrot, celery, and onion, and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the tomato paste and mix into the vegetables until well combined. Add the rosemary and garlic and cook until fragrant, about 2 minutes.
  2. Drain the soaked beans and add to the pot along with the chicken broth. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Add the rind of Pecorino Romano.
  3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the beans are tender, about 40 minutes. Mash some of the beans with the back of a spoon.
  4. Add the pasta and minced sage and cook another 10 minutes until pasta is al dente. Add more broth as needed.
  5. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle with whole sage leaves and grate cheese on top to serve.
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