You'll love this Italian Beef Soup with Pasta Shells! It's based on my Nonna's recipe for Brodo di Carne and is worth the wait. This is the best homemade beef soup!
This may look like an unassuming bowl of soup, but this is one of the best recipes on Cooking with Mamma C. Promise me you'll make my family's Italian Beef Soup with Pasta Shells as soon as you can!
This delicious, old-fashioned soup starts with a chuck roast and cooks on low with carrots, onions and celery for four hours on the stove. That's my favorite way to make this, but I've included slow cooker directions, with tips for making that work.
Your home will smell amazing. I grew up with this wonderful aroma filling our house every week.
When it's done, you'll cook some pasta shells separately to enjoy with the beef broth soup. It's such a warm, comforting meal! And if you love this, be sure to check out my other soup recipes!
Beef Chuck Roast: This is the best beef for soup. It will become so tender, it will fall apart when you pierce it with a fork.
Beef Stock: Nonna's recipe for this brodo di carne (meat soup) ― also called brodo di manzo, (beef broth) ― didn't include a carton of beef stock. It's probably because that product wasn't available back then.
I always include it, however, because it intensifies the beef flavor.
It also produces beef soup with a deeper brown color than the more clear soup of my childhood. Keep in mind, if you add more water than the five cups called for here, your soup will be lighter in color.
If you don't have beef stock, you could substitute a carton of beef broth, but I highly recommend using stock for the depth of flavor it provides.
Pasta: I like to use medium seashell pasta here, but you could make this with any small pasta. Try mini bowties, orzo, ditalini, or orecchiette. For a gluten-free option, use rice cooked like pasta.
Peeled Tomatoes: You just need two. I usually buy canned, peeled tomatoes and pull a couple out to use in the soup. I then use the rest of the tomatoes for an Easy Pasta Sauce (Marinara).
But you could peel two fresh tomatoes instead.
Black Peppercorns: I keep some in stock without grinding them just to make this Italian Beef Soup! They're a great way to provide heat and pepper flavor without darkening the broth.
You'll leave them whole but strain them out before serving the soup.
If you don't have peppercorns, you'll need to add ground black pepper.
Other seasonings for this soup simply include thyme, salt and red pepper flakes.
Italian Herbs: Fresh basil and parsley add wonderful flavor to our Italian soup! If you have to skip the parsley, that probably would be fine, but try not to omit the fresh basil. Dried basil isn't my favorite, but you could substitute some in a pinch.
How to make it
See the recipe card at the end of this post for full instructions, but here's an overview.
For the beef
- Place the beef roast in a tall soup pot (affiliate link) and add beef stock and enough water to cover the meat. Heat on medium high.
- When the broth starts boiling, remove the soup scum with a slotted spoon or fine-mesh strainer. Then lower the heat to a simmer.
- After you've added the remaining ingredients and cooked the soup for four hours, remove the beef. You can leave it whole or use two forks to make shredded beef.
For the vegetables
- Peel the carrots and cut them in half. Cut the celery into 1-inch pieces. Quarter an onion and chop the garlic.
- After the beef has cooked for 20 minutes, add the vegetables, tomatoes, herbs and seasonings to the pot. When the veggies have cooked for 35 minutes, remove half of the carrots to save them for serving with the soup later.
- When the soup is done and you have removed the meat, strain the soup to remove the peppercorns and mushy vegetables. You can save the veggies to eat with salt and pepper, if you wish.
- Removing some of the carrots after about 35 minutes of cooking ensures they won't be mushy. Reserve them to serve with the soup later or make Italian Carrot Salad with them.
- Cook as much pasta as you need separately, so it doesn't get soft. You can spoon some of the soup into the cooked pasta to keep it from sticking.
How to serve Italian beef soup with pasta shells
Scoop some pasta and sliced carrots into each bowl. If desired, add some shredded beef, then a ladle or more of soup. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese and additional red pepper flakes.
If you prefer to enjoy the meat separately, you can serve it in large chunks as a second dish.
How to serve extra soup meat
Another option for serving extra soup meat is to shred it with two forks and toss it with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. It makes a delicious meat salad that's so good with a chunk of Homemade Italian bread!
This is a very Italian tradition in my family. In fact, I'm guessing it's the inspiration for the "Italian beef" sandwich recipes that call for cooking a chuck roast in the Crock-Pot and adding pickled vegetables.
Can you make this in the slow cooker?
Yes, but it will be greasy on the first day, since it's not easy to remove the scum (meat protein) the way you can when the soup boils on the stove.
However, after overnight refrigeration, the grease will have solidified on top of the soup, and you can remove it. The soup tastes so much better the second day!
In order to make the Italian Beef Soup fit in the Crock-Pot, you'll either have to reduce the liquid to six cups (instead of eight) or cut up the meat and veggies before adding them.
Either way, make sure there is at least an inch of space at the top of your slow cooker, so it doesn't overflow.
In keeping with the idea of a "forgeddabboudit" version, you don't have to strain the soup and can just leave all the carrots in the Crock-Pot the whole time.
Overall, the Crock-Pot version is easy, but tastes best the second day, after the grease has been removed.
Can you make this in the Instant Pot?
I haven't tried it but suspect we might have to adjust the recipe to fit into a 6-quart pressure cooker. Also, the meat would probably have to be cut into chunks first.
However, I'm intrigued by the idea and will try that after a slow cooker version! I'll be sure to update this post when I do.
Frequently asked questions
This soup will keep for up to four days in the refrigerator. Store it in a tightly sealed container. I recommend storing any leftover pasta separately, so it doesn't get too soft.
No, it's best to freeze soup without the pasta in it. The pasta would become too mushy during thawing and reheating. You can freeze the soup in plastic quart containers.
More Italian soup recipes to love
- Chicken Pastina Soup
- Italian Minestrone Soup (Easy!)
- Nonna's Chicken Meatball Soup
- Tuscan White Bean Soup with Escarole and Potatoes
- Authentic Pasta e Fagioli (Vegetarian)
If you try this Italian Beef Soup with Pasta Shells, please leave a comment and a rating!
Italian Beef Soup with Pasta Shells
- 3 pounds beef chuck roast
- 1 quart beef stock
- 5 cups hot water (Or enough to cover the meat. You can use more water for a larger quantity of soup, but do not fill the pot more than ¾ full.)
- 1 large onion
- 3 celery stalks with leaves
- 1 pound carrots
- 2 tablespoons fresh parsley leaves
- 2 medium garlic cloves
- 2 peeled tomatoes (canned is fine)
- 8 fresh basil leaves (or use a teaspoon of dried)
- ½ teaspoon thyme
- 2 teaspoons salt (plus more to taste)
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 pound small pasta shells (or less, depending on what you need)
- Parmesan cheese for serving
- In a tall (8-quart) stock pot over medium high heat, add the beef chuck, stock, and hot water, making sure you don't fill your pot more than ¾ full. (When the liquid starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer.) During the first 20 minutes of cooking, use a slotted spoon or fine mesh strainer to skim off the foam that comes to the surface and discard it.
- While the beef is cooking, prepare the vegetables. Peel and quarter the onion. Wash the celery, trim off the ends, and cut into 1-inch pieces. Rinse the carrots and trim off the ends. Peel the carrots and cut them in half horizontally. Rinse the parsley and remove the stems (with scissors, if you have them). Peel and chop the garlic. Rinse the basil and remove the leaves.
- After 20 minutes, add the onion, garlic, tomatoes, vegetables, herbs and seasonings to the pot and give it a quick stir. Cover the pot and keep the heat on low. Cook the soup for four hours, but remove about half of the carrots after 35 minutes. (You can refrigerate them after they cool and start bringing them to room temperature an hour before serving the soup.)
- When the soup is done, remove the meat to a bowl and either shred it or cut it into chunks. Strain the soup into another pot (place a strainer over the empty pot and pour the soup through the strainer to remove the vegetables.) Discard the peppercorns. The vegetables in the strainer will be mushy, but you can save them in the refrigerator to eat later with salt and pepper if you wish.
- Taste the soup to see if it needs additional salt and pepper.
- For the pasta, fill a pot ⅔ full with hot water, add a little salt. Cover the pot and heat on high until rapidly boiling. Add the pasta and cook it until it's al dente, stirring occasionally so it doesn't stick. Turn off the heat, drain the pasta and return it to the pot. Scoop a little soup broth into the pasta so it doesn't stick.
- To serve, scoop some pasta and sliced, reserved carrots into each bowl and add some shredded beef, if desired. Ladle the broth over it. Top each serving with freshly grated Parmesan and have salt and red pepper flakes at the table for extra seasoning. If you prefer, the beef can be served separately as a second dish.
- To store leftover pasta, remove it from the pot with a slotted spoon so there is no liquid in it to make it soggy. Store it separately from the soup in the refrigerator. The leftover soup and pasta should be good for four days. If you wish to freeze leftover soup, place it in a plastic quart container with some meat but without the pasta. You can reheat frozen soup in the microwave or thaw it first in the refrigerator.
- Removing some of the carrots after about 35 minutes of cooking ensures they won't be mushy. Reserve them to serve in the bowls of soup later or make Italian Carrot Salad with them.
- How to use leftover soup meat: My family often stirs olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper into the extra shredded beef to make a meat salad. It's delicious with Italian bread.
- Can you make this in a slow cooker? You can, but it will be greasy the first day, since it's not easy to remove the foam (meat protein) the way you can when the soup boils on the stove. However, after overnight refrigeration, the grease will solidify at the top and you can remove it. The soup will taste much better the second day.
- Note that to make this recipe fit in the Crock-Pot, you will either need to reduce the liquid to six cups or cut up the meat and veggies before adding them. (You can add them all at once.) Make sure the Crock-Pot has at least an inch of space at the top so it doesn't overflow. You don't need to strain the soup or remove the carrots early. Cook the pasta separately.
- Can you make this in the Instant Pot? I haven't tried it but suspect we might have to adjust the recipe to fit into a 6-quart pressure cooker. Also, the meat would probably have to be cut into chunks first. I'll update the recipe when I try it.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Nonna's method, via my Mom. Originally published on December 27, 2014 and updated now with new photos and additional information.)