Pasta e fagioli is an easy and flavorful Italian soup made from pasta and beans. What elevates this modest and frugal soup is the addition of potatoes and a soup base called a trito.
A trito is a mixture of aromatics and herbs that are finely diced, sautéd in olive oil, and used as a soup base for the pasta e fagioli. For this recipe, I used a mini food processor to chop the carrots, garlic, and parsley. Then I added extra-virgin olive oil to create a paste that is added to the pasta e fagioli.
You can also make a double batch of trito. Use one batch to add to the pasta e fagioli and one to store in the refrigerator. Just add the trito mixture to a mason jar or container and cover it with some olive oil. It will keep for weeks and be ready anytime you want to add some extra flavor to the base of your soups or sauces.
And did I mention the aroma? This trito creates the most amazing fragrance. In this pasta e fagioli recipe, trito is gently sautéd with onions and crushed tomatoes and then added to the soup liquid along with the mashed potatoes.
The pasta typically used in pasta e fagioli is ditalini. Ditalini, which translates to "little thimbles," is a small, tube-shaped pasta. Ditalini can be cooked directly in the pasta e fagioli broth, and that's fine if you plan on consuming all of the soup in one sitting. But if you plan on having leftover soup tomorrow, the pasta will suck up all the liquid.
To prevent this, I like to cook the ditalini separately, toss it in oil, and store it in a separate container. I add a tablespoon or so of pasta to each serving of soup, and never worry that my tasty broth will disappear.
This recipe is based on Lidia Bastianich's pasta e fagioli recipe in her book, "Lidia's Italian Table." I spent a lot of time at my grandparent's house, and many weekends, my gram and I watched Lidia's PBS cooking show. Lidia shared stories, taught us Italian recipes, and some Italian language as well. "Tutti a tavola a mangiare," Lidia always said.
We were fortunate enough to have one of Lidia's restaurants in our area and even celebrated my grandparents sixtieth wedding anniversary at her establishment. But most celebrations were celebrated at my grandparent's house around their table.
"Dinner's Ready," my gram would yell from the porch, and we all came running in. Everyone to the table. Every Sunday. Maybe not forever but forever in my memory.
So elevate your memories of pasta e fagioli by trying this dynamite recipe. If it's your first time making pasta-e-fagioli, get ready to create new, lasting memories made from pasta and beans.
Pasta e Fagioli
- mini-food processor or blender
- potato masher
- 3 quarts water
- 2-3 lbs baking potatoes, peeled and cut in half
- 2-3 sprigs fresh rosemary
- 2 dried bay leaves
- 2 tsp crushed red pepper (more or less depending on your preference)
- 1 trito recipe (recipe to follow)
- extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 cup chopped onions)
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomato sauce
- 1 15-ounce can cannellini beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 15-ounce can red kidney beans (rinsed and drained)
- 1 cup ditalini pasta (cook the pasta following manufacturer's instructions)
- salt and pepper (to taste)
- grated Romano or Parmesan cheese (for garnish)
- 4 garlic cloves (peeled)
- ½ cup shredded carrots
- ½ cup lightly packed chopped fresh parsley
- 3-4 TBSP extra-virgin olive oil
- In a large soup pot, heat 3 quarts of water.
- Add halved, peeled potatoes, rosemary, and crushed red pepper to the water and let it come to a boil.
- Boil the potatoes for 30 minutes, or until they are tender all the way through.
- Meanwhile, make the trito recipe and set it aside.
- Drizzle a few tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet and heat over medium heat. Add the chopped onions and sauté for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the trito mixture to the onions and sauté for 2 minutes.
- Add a can of crushed tomatoes to the onions and trito mixture and cook for 10 more minutes, stirring from time to time.
- Once the potatoes are tender, shut off the heat, and remove the potatoes from the pot (saving the liquid). Remove the bay leaves and rosemary stems from the water as well.
- Using a potato masher, mash the potatoes and add them back into the pot of water. Also, add the drained beans and the sauce-trito-onion mixture and stir.
- Bring the soup up to a boil and then let it simmer for 20-30 minutes.
- Meanwhile, follow the manufacturer's instructions for cooking 1 cup of ditalini pasta. Once cooked, drain the pasta. Drizzle the pasta with some olive oil, stir, and set aside.
- Once the soup is done, add a tablespoon of cooked pasta to each soup bowl, and ladle in the soup. Garnish each bowl of soup with 1 teaspoon grated cheese and serve.
- In a mini food processor or blender, add peeled garlic, shaved carrots, and rough-chopped parsley.
- Pulse a few times, and then, while the processor or blender is running, add a steady stream of olive oil until a paste forms.