When you consider the quintessential ingredients of Italian cuisine, your mind likely dreams up visions of dried pasta, tomatoes and an assortment of fresh cheeses. But one ingredient that shouldn't be overlooked is fagioli, which translates to "beans" in English. Legumes, in their many varieties, have been a monument in Italian cooking for centuries, but perhaps no dish highlights their flavor better than the humble pasta e fagioli.
Although it's known as a simple dish, pasta e fagioli is anything but. A blend of pasta cooked in a pot of chicken broth, plum tomatoes, cannellini beans and seasonings, the soup has a depth of flavor that Italians and Italian-Americans have cherished for thousands of years.
Like any dish that's been around for that long, pasta e fagioli has a few different variations. The dish changes depending on which region of Italy you're looking at. In the north, you may see it made with a long thick noodle like fettucine, while in the South you'll find it preapred with a small soup pasta, like ditalini macaroni.
As stated above, pasta e fagioli is easy to make. This recipe scales down the work even more by recommending you use canned beans. Some purists may scoff at this suggestion and exclaim that you must cook the beans from scratch. But for an easy weeknight dinner, we think canned beans get the job done without sacrificing flavor. The vegetarian meal is a great comfort soup to make this fall.
- 2 cups ditalini macaroni
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 4 cloves garlic, diced
- 1 small white onion, diced
- 4 cups chicken broth (or vegetable broth to make this dish vegetarian)
- 1 16-ounce can Italian plum tomatoes, drained, chopped
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1 teaspoon dried basil
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans
Step 1: In a pot, bring water to a boil, add 2 cups ditalini and cook, roughly 5-7 minutes. When cooked through, drain and set aside.
Step 2: Heat 1/4 cup olive oil in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Add 4 cloves diced garlic and 1 small diced onion and sauté until golden and fragrant, about 3-5 minutes.
Step 3: Add 4 cups chicken broth, plum tomatoes, 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon dried oregano, 1 teaspoon dried basil, salt and pepper and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook 15 minutes, stirring occasionally to breaking up the tomatoes with the back of a spoon.
Step 4: Stir in two cans of drained cannellini beans and heat until warmed through.
Step 5: Place pasta in individual bowls, pour the sauce over and toss thoroughly. Sprinkle with a hint of parmesan and serve.
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