Pasta e fagioli

About the dish

The curtains are closing on winter. What better way to ward off cravings of warm soups and stews than with one last fix of the most soul-soothing dishes I know: Pasta e fagioli. This is a traditional Italian dish that literally translates to pasta and beans, and is the essence of la cucina povera or peasant cooking – the ability to transform few, humble ingredients, into satisfying, hearty, delicious meals. This recipe definitely deserves a spot in your repertoire.

There are plenty of versions of this dish since each Italian region adds its own twist; different herbs, spices, adding prosciutto or pancetta to the base.  You’ll usually see a short pasta like ditalini used,  but the whole purpose of this style of cooking is to make-due with what you’ve got. So go ahead and use-up any leftover bits of pasta, break-up some spaghetti, throw-in some penne, mix-and-match and just make it your own!

About the beans

I strongly strongly suggest making this dish with fresh or dried beans. Canned beans can be helpful when you’re in a pinch, true,  but they just don’t compare flavour-wise. This recipe calls for Borlotti beans or cranberry beans: they’re the gorgeous white beans with bright fushia specks.

image via cooking-books

For the recipe 

If you’ll be using fresh    Every august, my father spends 2 days shucking two 10kg bags of these beans, then freezes them individually to supply the family with beans for the year. So if you’re as lucky as me and have fresh ones on-hand, it’s still important to properly rinse and drain the beans before using them, picking out any odd-looking ones.

If you’ll be using dried    Fellow nutritionist and blogger Lauren from @foodtrainers just wrote a great DIY post on bean soaking that is definitely worth your time.  So remember to give yourself some soaking time (8 hours or overnight) before using them in the recipe.

If you’ll be using canned    This will cut down on cooking time (and flavour!): follow the same steps but reduce cooking time to 15 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.


Yield: 5 cups    Servings: 4


  •  2 cups Borlotti or cranberry beans approx. 300 g
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 medium celery, chopped
  • 1 medium carrot, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon chili flakes
  • 2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¾ cup diced tomatoes
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 cups water (plus 2 cups)
  • 1 cup ditalini pasta, dry  approx 100 g



  1. Cover beans with cold water, place in the refrigerator for 8 hours or overnight. Drain, rinse and set aside.
  2. In a heavy bottomed sauce pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions, celery, carrot and sauté for about 3 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the chili flakes, garlic, bay leaf and rosemary and sauté for 1 minute. Then add the beans and the tomatoes and stir well.
  4. Add the 4 cups of water. The beans should be just covered.
  5. Turn the heat to medium-low, covered and let simmer slowly for 45 minutes or until the beans are tender.
  6.  Remove the rosemary sprigs and bay leaves, then measure-out 1 to 2 cups of the soup and purée it in a blender. This is going to give it creaminess, so add more or less depending on your preferred consistency.
  7. Add the purée back into the soup, along with 2 more cups of water and season with the salt.
  8. Bring it back to the boil, add pasta and cook 10 minutes (or according to package instructions) until the pasta is al dente.
  9. Serve immediately and enjoy!!!

Per serving:

The facts: Calories: 350  Total fat:14 g   Protein: 12g  Fiber: 12g

The goods: Source of iron, potassium, magnesium, folate, calcium, zinc.

What are your favourite peasant cooking dishes? Do you prefer fresh, dried or canned beans?



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