Pasta e Fagioli soup began in Italy as a simple dish made with inexpensive ingredients, as so many of the country’s most delicious dishes are. After trying several variations, I’ve settled on the Pasta Fagioli recipe that’s perfect for us: a mix of two broths, cannellini beans, sweet Italian sausage, short pasta and broccoli rabe (or Italian kale) to make it a meal.
Do you perk up at the phrase, ‘peasant dish’? I do. Maybe the word ‘peasant’ began as a way to separate the haves from the have-nots in conversation, but now is more likely to symbolize ingenuity and conjure comforting sensations like the smell of homemade bread baking or a pot of hearty soup bubbling on the stove. To represent dishes with tastes that transcend their humble components. Like Pasta e Fagioli for example which, in Italian, means simply “pasta and beans,” a modest name for a magnificent soup. Though the soup varies by region in Italy, the fundamentals are the same: olive oil, garlic, vegetables, pasta, beans and flavorful broth that can be made with or without meat.
We tried several versions of this soup to arrive at just the right combination of flavors and textures for our tastes, including Marcella Hazan’s version from her famed book, Essentials of Italian Cooking\, that calls for finishing the soup with butter instead of olive oil. But the one I’m sharing with you today is my very favorite, a medley of so many flavors and textures that I love, bubbling together in one hearty and delicious soup.
Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta e Fagioli soup began in Italy as a simple dish made with inexpensive ingredients, as so many of the country’s most delicious dishes are. After trying several variations, I’ve settled on the Pasta Fagioli recipe that’s perfect for us with a couple kinds of broth, cannellini beans, sweet Italian sausage, short pasta and broccoli rabe (or Italian kale) to make it a meal.
- 1 pound sweet Italian sausage
- 1 large onion chopped
- 2 large carrots chopped (and peeled if you prefer)
- 2 ribs celery chopped
- 3 cloves garlic minced
- pinch crushed red pepper
- 4 cups chicken broth
- 4 cups beef broth
- 14 1/2 ounce can diced tomatoes with juice
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
- 8 ounces uncooked short pasta such as ditalini, macaroni or (my favorite) strozzapreti
- 2 cups cooked cannellini beans or 2 - 14 1/2-ounce cans, drained
- 10 ounces broccoli rabe chopped (or Italian kale)
- shaved Parmesan cheese to taste
- extra virgin olive oil to taste
Add sausage to a large soup pot over medium heat; cook and stir until browned. If needed, pour off all but a tablespoon of any fat that renders. (Or if the sausage is very lean, add in a swirl of olive oil before adding the vegetables.)
Add onion, carrots, celery, garlic and crushed red pepper to sausage; cook and stir until onion is translucent, about 5 minutes. Add both broths and tomatoes with juice; stir and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 15 minutes.
Stir in pasta. When pasta has cooked 3 minutes less than the package directs, stir in broccoli rabe and cannellini beans. Cook and stir until broccoli rabe has wilted and beans are heated through. (If you plan to have leftover soup, see recipe note about cooking pasta separately.)
Serve sprinkled with shaved Parmesan cheese and a generous drizzle of olive oil.
If you plan to eat some of the soup as leftovers for a day or two after making it, cook the pasta separately, toss it in a little olive oil and store covered in the refrigerator. Then add in just what you need in the last minute or so of reheating.