Authentic Pasta e Fagioli takes just 30 minutes and is so easy! Enjoy this vegetarian pasta and beans made as in Naples, with just enough tomato broth. Whether you call it "Pasta Fazool" or "Pasta Fagioli," you must try it!
There are times when only a comforting bowl of Pasta e Fagioli will do.
If you're Italian, you know exactly what I'm talking about.
If you're not Italian, you may be wondering, "What the heck is fagioli?"
Fagioli (pronounced fah-JOH-lee), simply means "beans" in Italian.
There are many variations of this dish, but my Authentic Pasta e Fagioli is based on how it's prepared in Naples, where Mom is from.
That means it's:
- Vegetarian - It used to be a peasant dish, so the beans provide the protein. Note, some vegetarians won't eat Parmesan cheese, so you might need to omit that for them.
- One Pot - We use just enough water to cook the pasta and don't drain it. The starchy water is key to achieving a broth consistency.
- A Cross Between Soup and a Pasta Dish - There's just enough tomato broth to coat the pasta. It's similar to this Pasta with Zucchini.
Pasta: I prefer ditalini here, but any small pasta will do. You could make this with shells or orecchiette.
Beans: Cannellini (white kidney beans) are used in traditional Pasta e Fagioli from Naples, but feel free to substitute great northern beans.
Tomato Paste: I used to use a fresh tomato in here, but really prefer using a little tomato paste instead. The tomato paste thickens the broth and provides uniform flavor throughout. But, this is more of a white Pasta e Fagioli instead of the deep red versions you see at American restaurants.
How to make pasta e fagioli
See the recipe card at the bottom of this post for full details, but here's an overview.
- Sauté onions with tomato paste in olive oil in a large pasta pot (affiliate link).
- When the onions are almost tender, stir in the garlic, beans, herbs, salt and pepper.
- After a minute, add five cups of hot water and bring to a boil.
- Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Stir in Parmesan cheese.
- Use two tablespoons of tomato paste to thicken the Pasta e Fagioli.
- Store extra tomato paste in the freezer by wrapping a couple spoonfuls at a time in plastic wrap, then placing those little packets in a freezer bag. You'll have the perfect amount ready when you need it.
What to serve with it
Frequently asked questions
Some Italian Americans refer to this dish as "pasta fazool." That's similar to the pronunciation of "pasta e fasule," which is Neapolitan dialect for Pasta e Fagioli.
This is a dish best eaten immediately, because the leftovers will dry out. But, you can store the leftovers for up to four days in the refrigerator. Add a little olive oil to them before reheating.
More recipes like this
- Pasta with Broccoli
- Pasta e Piselli (Pasta with Peas)
- Italian Minestrone Soup (Easy!
- Tuscan White Bean Soup with Escarole and Potatoes
- Mediterranean Lentil Soup (or Stew)
With my Pasta & Sauces collection, even a beginner can cook like an Italian nonna!
Authentic Pasta e Fagioli (Vegetarian)
- 1 medium onion
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 6-8 fresh basil leaves
- 1 tablespoon fresh parsley (optional)
- 3 cloves garlic
- 15 ounce can cannellini or great northern beans (cannellini are white kidney beans)
- 5 cups hot water
- 1 ⅓ teaspoons salt
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 pound ditalini pasta (or other small pasta; see notes)
- ⅓ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese (can omit if needed)
- red pepper flakes to taste
- extra Parmesan to serve
- Peel and chop the onion. Heat olive oil in a large pasta pot on medium high. Add the onions and tomato paste and stir to combine. Cook until onions are tender, stirring as needed, about six minutes. (Lower the heat a bit if the onions are getting too brown.)
- While the onions are cooking, rinse, dry and chop the basil and optional parsley. Peel and press the garlic. Drain and rinse the beans. When the onions have another minute to cook, stir in the garlic, herbs beans, salt and pepper.
- After a minute, add water to the pot, cover it, and put the heat on high. When the pot is boiling, add the pasta.
- Lower the heat to medium high or to a simmering level. (It should not be a rapid boil.) Cook the pasta uncovered, stirring occasionally and scraping along the bottom, until the pasta is al dente. (Check it three minutes before the al dente time listed on the package.) Do NOT drain.
- Turn off the heat and stir in the Parmesan. Taste for seasonings and add a few sprinkles of red pepper flakes as needed.
- Serve immediately with extra cheese at the table. The pasta will absorb the broth quickly. Store leftovers in the refrigerator for up to 4 days. To heat leftovers, add a bit of olive oil to each serving before warming it up in the microwave.
(Recipe Source: Adapted from my Mom's recipe, which came from my Nonna. Originally published on October 13, 2014 and updated now with new photos and text.)