Pasta fagioli is a traditional Italian peasant dish that was cheap to make because it was usually meatless. Inexpensive ingredients of beans and pasta thicken the soup into a hearty meal. There are countless versions of the recipe and nearly as many ways to pronounce fagioli (beans), depending on the Italian dialect emphasized (fajool, fazul, fazoo, fajeeoli). Plenty of iterations of the recipe call on a bit of pancetta, bacon, or sausage to add depth of flavor and texture. A quarter pound of soppressata (about 1 link) serves that purpose in this Meat Lite variation.
The desired consistency of pasta fagioli is as much of a personal preference. I like mine thick and scoopable, like a cross between a stew and a pasta dish. If you prefer a soupier result, double the stock or broth called for below and consider cooking the pasta separately before adding it to the pot. The uncooked pasta naturally absorbs liquid and releases starches into the soup as it cooks (plus the pasta continues to cook, absorb and soften as it sits in the liquid, so if you are opposed to anything more than al dente, keep the pasta separate from the rest until serving).
If you prefer a vegetarian pasta fagioli, skip the soppressata and start by sweating the onions in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Use vegetable broth instead of meat stock.
This recipe is a one-pot wonder, making it perfect for a low-maintenance dinner and easy on cleanup. Make a big pot because true to its peasant roots, it's cheap and it freezes nicely, too. Add a few splashes of water when reheating to thin out the soup a little.
About the author: Tara Mataraza Desmond writes about, cooks, and eats food for a living. She blogs about food and life through words and pictures at Crumbs On My Keyboard.
- 4 ounces soppressata, diced small
- 1 small onion, diced small
- 4 large garlic cloves, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1 28-ounce can of crushed or diced tomatoes
- 2 cups chicken stock or vegetable broth
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
- 4 cups cooked white beans
- 8 ounces small tubular pasta like ditalini or elbow macaroni
- Coarse salt and freshly grated black pepper
- Shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano for serving
Set a Dutch oven or large, wide saucepot over medium-high heat. Add the sopressata and cook for 1 to 2 minutes, just to brown slightly and to render some fat. Add the onions and drop the heat to medium. Sweat the onions with the soppressata for 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and sweat an additional 1 to 2 minutes.
Stir in the tomatoes, stock, oregano, basil and beans. Bring to a low simmer and cover. Simmer for 30 minutes.
Add the pasta, cover and cook for about 5 minutes or until the pasta is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Ladle the pasta fagioli into warm bowls, top with Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve with bread for sopping up the leftover sauce.