Pasta e Fagioli soup is an Italian classic! Enjoy this vegetarian version that is thick and stew-like and each bite is full of hearty pasta and beans.
One of my favorite Italian soups is this classic pasta e Fagioli (pronounced pasta-e-faa-jow-lee) – which in English means pasta and beans. Growing up in a family from New York, we called it “pasta fazool”, which is a little twist on its Neopolitan name, pasta e fazule! While this soup may have many different pronunciations it all points to the same bowl of goodness. 😉
Each spoonful of this soup consists of pasta noodles, beans, and the few vegetables involved are chopped very small and used as accents to the pasta. The consistency is thick and hearty and each step in the cooking process is intentionally placed to develop the most flavor!
Traditional recipes usually consist of pancetta (unsmoked Italian bacon) for a salty base, but I wanted to keep this recipe vegetarian-friendly.
So instead, I used a parmesan rind to infuse a different salty flavor in with the beans and tomatoes. The rind actually doesn’t melt in the soup, but becomes soft and releases so much umami flavor into the beans. It is absolute perfection!
To me, this is the ultimate winter soup because it is so hearty and cozy.
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You’ll need only a handful of simple pantry ingredients and several fresh vegetables to make this soup happen. Here’s everything you need: diced tomatoes, cannelli beans, vegetable broth, small pasta shells, carrots, celery rib, yellow onion, garlic cloves, red pepper flakes, fresh oregano, fresh basil, parmesan rind, olive oil, and parmesan cheese.
How to Make Pasta e Fagioli – Step by Step
- First, on medium heat sauté onions, celery, and carrots in oil for 5-7 minutes.
- Then add aromatics – garlic, red pepper flakes, thyme sprigs, and fresh oregano. Stir for 30 seconds with veggies.
- Then add white beans, canned diced tomatoes, and parmesan rind. Let cook on a gentle simmer (not a boil) for 10 minutes. Stir often.
- After beans and tomatoes have simmered and the beans are tender, add broth, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Let simmer an additional 10-15 minutes.
- Then add the cooked pasta noodles, fresh basil, and season to taste with salt if needed. Remove the thyme sprigs and parmesan rind before serving.
Tips For Success & Recipe FAQs
Keep vegetable cuts small: the whole point to a pasta Fagioli soup is you want the pasta and beans to be the star. Keep the vegetable cuts very small and remember they are “accents” to the soup – not the focal point.
Cook the pasta separately: Although some traditional recipes call for cooking pasta noodles with the soup, I personally don’t want the starches from the pasta to interfere with the texture of the soup. I recommend cooking the noodles separately, then adding them to the finished soup at the end!
Types of pasta noodles you can use: I used small pasta shells for this recipe. You can also use ditalini pasta, macaroni, rotini, or orecchiette. It’s best to use bite-sized pasta!
Make it gluten-free! I used chickpea noodles in this recipe and they worked great! You can also use brown rice, lentil flour pasta, or your favorite gluten-free pasta brand.
What is the difference between pasta Fagioli and minestrone?
Minestrone soup is loaded with a variety of different vegetables, beans, and is usually accompanied by pasta noodles. Pasta Fagioli takes a more simplified approach by focussing solely on pasta and beans. Only a few vegetables are involved in this soup, and they are cut very small and used as accents to the soup, so the noodle and beans remain the focus.
What are the best beans for pasta fagioli?
One of the most popular beans to use is cannellini because they are creamy, light, and perfect for infusing with flavor. But you can also use navy beans, red kidney beans, or garbanzo beans too!
What is a parmesan rind?
When you buy a fresh block of parmesan cheese, typically it will come with a rind – which is the outer casing of the cheese. It is usually hard in texture and not edible, but it is excellent for infusing flavor into soups, stews, broths, and tomato sauces!
How to Freeze & Store Leftovers
Tips for freezing: allow soup to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container or freezer-friendly bag and freeze up to 1-2 months. Let thaw at room temperature and heat up in a pot when ready to serve.
Keep leftovers fresh: allow soup to cool to room temperature, then store in an airtight container and refrigerator for up to 3-5 days.
What to Serve it With
Complete your meal by serving this hearty soup with homemade bread like our no-knead cranberry walnut bread, or with these easy 10-minute naan pizzas. If you’re looking for something a little lighter to compliment the soup, I love serving it with our artichoke salad or this delicious Italian salad!
This soup is basically like a warm hug when winter comes. It’s also incredibly filling and satisfying – even while being meatless.
I hope you and your family love this Italian classic just as much as mine does!
More Hearty Vegetarian Soups
- Italian Minestrone Soup
- Tuscan White Bean Soup
- 30-Minute Leek and Potato Soup
- Southwest Sweet Potato Chili
Vegetarian Pasta E Fagioli
- 1 Tbsp olive oil
- 4 garlic cloves
- 1 medium yellow onion
- 1 celery rib
- 2 small to medium carrots
- 2 cups dried small pasta shells (see notes)
- 2 15 ounce can cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes
- 3 cups vegetable broth
- 1 Tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
- 2 thyme sprigs
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- parmesan cheese rind (see notes)
- 1/2 teaspoon (each) salt & black pepper (plus more to taste)
- Prepare vegetables: dice onion into small pieces. Remove stems from the celery and carrots, and dice into 1/4-inch pieces. Mince garlic.
- Sauté vegetables: In a large pot on low to medium heat, sauté diced onions, celery, and carrots in olive oil with pinch of salt. Cook for 5-7 minutes until soft, stir often.
- Add aromatics: when vegetables are soft, add minced garlic, chopped oregano, thyme sprigs, and red pepper flakes. Sauté with vegetables for 30 seconds. Note: rather than add these when the soup simmers, sautéing the herbs and spices for a short period of time will draw an even deeper level of flavor from the aromatic ingredients.
- Simmer beans & tomatoes: then add diced tomatoes with juices, cannellini beans, and parmesan cheese rind to vegetables. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Note: This part infuses the beans with flavor before adding the broth.
- Add the broth for a final simmer: Add the broth, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Simmer for 15 minutes until it has reduced and thickened.
- Cook the pasta: while tomatoes and beans cook, bring a large pot of well salted water to a boil. Cook pasta until "al dente", then strain water from noodles. Note: some recipes call for the pasta to cook with the soup, I personally don't want the starches from the pasta to interfere with the texture of the soup so I cook them separate.
- Add pasta and fresh basil: add your cooked pasta shells to the soup with 1/4 cup fresh basil. Remove parmesan cheese rind and thyme sprigs before serving. Taste soup and adjust flavor with pinch of salt or more red pepper flakes until the balance of flavor is just right. Serve with fresh parmesan cheese and enjoy!