The Classic Pasta and Fagioli

There are so many versions of Pasta e Fagioli in Italy and on the web, it almost seems superfluous to add my two bob’s worth on the topic. Anyone who has an Italian nonna makes a more traditional/better/regional/authentic version. During winter, Pasta e Fagioli, (pasta and beans) is one of the most useful dishes to know. Is it an entrée, a soup or a main dish? It can be all of these but given the heartiness and distinct lack of brothy elements, I tend to make this dish as a piatto unico, a stand alone dish, to be served with bread, a few drops of new oil, and perhaps some Parmigiano. Most versions are thick with beans and pasta and very little broth: some are made slowly with fresh borlotti beans, while less desirable versions are thrown together with canned beans, canned tomato and cheap industrial pasta. It is a timeless classic rustic dish, Cucina Povera Italiana, made in the past through necessity using simple ingredients stored for winter. Today, it satisfies that need in us all for comfort food on a cold winter’s day.

Like many other Italian dishes, this one also starts with a classic soffritto, that holy trio of flavour, emerging from the slow sauté of carrots, onion and celery. The soffrito vegetables must be chopped very finely so that they almost disappear once they are cooked. Another element often added at the soffrito stage is pancetta and lardo. I omit these ingredients given my dietary preferences but try to find other umani elements to flavour the dish, either through rich stock, herbs, garlic or even anchovy fillets, reduced to a salty mash. I also reserve a little deep vegetable stock to thin the mixture.

First pressed and just delicious. The first harvest of Cobram’s new oil. Only for dressing up.

Ingredients

  • 200 g borlotti beans, either fresh or dried
  • 250 gr tomato passata or finely diced tomatoes
  • 80 gr onion finely chopped
  • 30 gr celery finely chopped
  • 30 gr carrot finely chopped
  • 1 garlic finely chopped
  • 1 small branch fresh rosemary
  • 3 Bay leaves
  • 10 g EV olive oil
  • black pepper
  • fine sea salt
  • 100- 200g of pasta ditalini, depending on your preference for a thick or thinner version.

Method

Cook the beans. If using dried borlotti, soak overnight then cook in water for around 80 minutes. Add the bay leaves to the water but no salt which may make the beans remain hard. If using fresh borlotti, there’s no need to soak them and they should cook in under 30 minutes, depending on their their freshness. Keep the cooking water.

When the beans are done, make a soffrito with the onion, celery and carrot. Add the oil to a large heavy based soup pot and gently saute these vegetables until soft and golden, adding the chopped garlic and finely chopped rosemary towards the end. (Traditionally, the garlic would be added to the cooking oil first, cooked until just golden then fished out before adding the soffrito ingredients. If you don’t love garlic as much as I do, consider that method. I like to keep the garlic for more flavour)

Add the beans and a little of the cooking water. Then add the tomato and heat through gently. Remove two ladles of the mixture and puree with a hand mixer. Return this back to the soup pot. If too thick, add a little bean cooking water or vegetable stock.

Add the pasta, and cook until al dente. Watch the pot at this stage as the pasta and beans have a tendency to stick when this thick. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper.

Serve in lovely wide and shallow bowls with a drizzle of fine oil and some good bread.

Bread of the day with Pasta of the week.

Other Pasta of the Week ideas:

Maccheroni Rigati with Sweet Pepper Sauce

Ditalini with Cacio and Eggs

Gnocchi Sardi with Gorgonzola, Silver beet and walnuts.

Pantacce with Borlotti Beans and Rugola

 

 

 

 

 

25 thoughts on “The Classic Pasta and Fagioli”

  1. Your dish is delightful-looking and very upscale, but I wonder if the cheap and easy version — canned beans, canned tomatoes, and industrial pasta — isn’t in a way true to the original intent. To me, those are in a way gifts of the food industry that really are not harmful or overprocessed or unhealthful despite being cheap and easy. Especially if you add your own oil and fresh carrots, onion, etc, as opposed to using ready-made sauce. There can be room for cheap and easy too.

    Best … mae at maefood.blogspot.com

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    1. Home cooked beans are heaps cheaper than canned beans and have a better texture to my way of thinking. Canned tomatoes or passata are a necessity in winter and there are some good versions on the market. There are good pastas and bad pastas, so for the sake of a few cents extra, I prefer the better ones. The canned bean version is easier indeed but not one that would have been used by Italian housewives in the past, who saved all their own beans from the crops they grew. In the end, you need to weigh up taste versus ease: I’m going with taste Mae.

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  2. Such a great example of simple ‘peasant’ comfort food that gets the most out of basic ingredients. I must admit I’ve not tried a pasta e fagioli but I think this winter is the one to give it a go. I just recently stocked up my freezer stash of pre-chopped soffrito ingredients – definitely worth having on hand to start off so many dishes in the colder months.
    thanks for sharing your version here.
    Cheers,
    Laura

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  3. I shared this recipe on Facebook and earlier when sis told me she was about to make pasta e fagioli (a staple in my family), I asked her if she’d seen this recipe (even though I know she knows how to make it). She said yes. And now she tells me she made it her way but when she looked at your recipe again, she saw that her way was your way as well. 🙂 I also must say that your photos of the dish make it even better.

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  4. An absolute classic Francesca, I love it, though I make similar soups with other dried beans if I have them sitting around, and I particularly love pasta with chickpeas as it goes so beautifully with rosemary. This is also one of those dishes I like the second day when it’s so thick you can stand the spoon up 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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