Italian for “pasta and beans,” Pasta Fagioli should also translate to “best soup.” A hearty combination of pantry staples, veggies, beans, and ground beef, the flavor and satisfaction level far exceed the humble ingredients.
You probably know pasta fagioli (pronounced “pasta fah-jolie”) from Olive Garden, or get it confused with Minestrone Soup.
Minestrone is also made with pasta, beans, and vegetables, but it is typically vegetarian and is generally more brothy than pasta fagioli, which gets extra thickening by blending the beans.
As for the difference between this pasta fagioli recipe and what you may have had at a certain Italian chain restaurant, let me assure you that this recipe is way better than bottomless breadsticks (as is Crockpot Tortellini Soup)!
Traditional Italian Recipe, Made Easy
This pasta fagioli soup recipe is adapted from Instant Pot Pasta e Fagioli, another don’t-miss dish from my cookbook.
It’s a humble Italian meal that is easy to prepare (hello, one-pot wonder!), but it tastes complex and will fill you up.
- Easy. This pasta fagioli recipe is simple enough for a beginner cook, but scrumptious enough to please the discerning expert.
- Budget Friendly. Pasta fagioli soup is budget friendly. Bust out the ground beef from the freezer and those canned tomatoes you’ve had stacked in the back of the pantry since 2020.
- Flexible. Feel free to channel Barefoot Contessa as you prepare this pasta fagioli by using your cooking creativity; this soup is flexible and forgiving to incorporate the veggies, beans, and noodles you have on hand.
How to Make the Best Pasta Fagioli Recipe
Pasta e fagioli soup is prepared in one pot, and the extra step of pureeing the soup makes for the perfect, creamy consistency.
It yields a generous portion, and like a good pot of chili, it tastes even better reheated the next day.
- Ground Beef. Use 90% to 93% to keep this recipe leaner. Be sure to check out my other Ground Beef Dinner Ideas too!
- Beans. Two cans of beans (no need to soak dry beans!) make this soup even more hearty and filling. I used a mix of dark or light red kidney beans and white beans, such as Great Northern, cannellini beans, or navy beans.
- Vegetables. A base of sauteed onion and carrot builds a flavorful base and adds a serving of veg, making this an all-in-one dinner.
- Herbs and Spices. Fresh minced garlic, bay leaf, and Italian seasoning add familiar Italian flavors to the soup, with crushed red pepper for a pinch of heat, and fresh herbs like parsley or basil as a final finishing touch.
- Tomatoes. A large can of crushed tomatoes adds depth to the broth.
- Broth. I recommend low sodium chicken broth to control the salt level, but you can also use vegetable broth.
- Red Wine Vinegar. The pop of acidity balances all the flavors.
- Pasta. The traditional noodle choice for pasta fagioli is ditalini pasta, but you can use any small pasta, such as small shells or elbow macaroni. I use whole wheat noodles to add more protein and fiber to the dish.
- Parmesan. For a pro chef move, simmer a Parmesan rind in your soup, and freshly grate Parmesan over the top when serving. This is no time for the green can.
- Brown ground beef in a Dutch oven or large soup pot. Remove to a plate.
- Sauté vegetables in olive oil over medium heat. Add garlic.
- Add 1 cup of the chicken broth and simmer.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and increase heat to medium high. Simmer.
- Add remaining broth, beans, seasoning, and Parmesan rind. Simmer for 10 minutes.
- Blend a portion of the soup.
- Stir blended portion back into the pot.
- Stir in the pasta, bring to a simmer, and cook until the pasta is al dente, or tender to your preference.
- Stir in the vinegar, parsley, and cooked beef. Serve hot with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese, drizzle of olive oil, and additional fresh herbs. ENJOY!
- To Store. Store leftover pasta fagioli in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- To Reheat. Warm on the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming.
- To Freeze. Freeze pasta fagioli for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
If you know you are going to have leftovers or are making freezer pasta fagioli soup for a future meal, I recommend:
- Keeping the cooked pasta separate from the soup rather than mixing it into the pot of soup.
- This will prevent the pasta from becoming mushy as it is stored.
- Mix in cooked pasta while reheating the soup.
Meal Prep Tip
You can prep your vegetables the day prior to cooking to save on time the day of. Chop and then store in the refrigerator in a ziptop bag.
What to Serve with Pasta Fagioli
Soup and salad are a dynamic duo, plus a crusty bread for dipping in the succulent broth.
- Salad. Arugula Salad is my go-to easy side salad to pair with any dinner. Or try Italian Chopped Salad for something more hearty.
- Bread. Garlic bread is a must with Italian soup! This No Knead Focaccia or Crock Pot Bread is a homemade bread that’s approachable for anyone to make.
- Roasted Vegetables. Bring on the green! Try Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Garlic, Roasted Green Beans, or Cabbage Steaks.
Recommended Tools to Make this Recipe
- Dutch Oven. Beautiful and durable, this baby will last forever.
- Chef’s Knife. Perhaps the single most important asset in any kitchen.
- Meat Chopper. A handy little tool for breaking apart ground meat while it cooks.
If the only thing you can now say in Italian is “pasta fagioli” (well, and “gelato”) you’ll be set.
Frequently Asked Questions
Pasta fazool is what pasta fagioli is called in the United States; fazool is derived from its Neapolitan name, pasta e fasule.
This pasta fagioli soup recipe does contain ground beef, but it can be easily omitted, and additionally, use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth to make it vegetarian. The soup will still be plenty hearty and filling without the meat thanks to the beans.
An immersion blender is definitely a handy tool for soups specifically, but for soups that you do not want totally pureed or you are specific about the elements you want to remain intact, it can be easy to accidentally go overboard and not achieve the desired texture. For this soup, I recommend scooping a portion of the soup into a blender so you don’t blend all of it.
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil divided
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt divided
- 4 medium carrots scrubbed and cut into 1/4-inch dice (about 2 cups)
- 1 small yellow onion diced (about 1 cup)
- 3 cloves garlic minced (about 1 tablespoon)
- 4 cups low sodium chicken broth divided
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 1 15-ounce can reduced sodium light or dark red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 15-ounce can reduced sodium Great Northern, cannellini, or navy beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 bay leaf
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
- 1 cup dry whole wheat miniature pasta such dilatini, small shells or elbow macaroni (about 4 ounces)
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
- 1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley or 1/2 chopped fresh basil plus additional for serving
- Water or additional broth as needed
- Parmesan rind optional
- Grated Parmesan
- Extra-virgin olive oil use your best
- In a Dutch over or similar large soup pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over medium-high heat. Add the beef and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt. Cook, breaking apart the meat with a wooden spoon or spatula, until no pink remains, 5 to 7 minutes. Remove to a plate.
- Reduce the heat to medium. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon oil, carrots, onion, and remaining 1 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables soften and the onion begins to turn translucent, 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add 1 cup of the chicken broth. Bring to a simmer and scrape the spoon along the bottom of the pan to remove any stuck-on bits of food.
- Add the crushed tomatoes and increase the heat to medium high. Let the tomatoes simmer for 5 minutes, stirring and scraping the spoon along the bottom of the pan often to keep them from sticking.
- Add the remaining 3 cups broth, kidney beans, Great Northern beans, bayleaf, Italian seasoning, pepper, red pepper flakes, and Parmesan rind (if using). Bring to a gentle simmer. Let cook, stirring every few minutes, for 10 minutes.
- Carefully transfer a few ladlefuls of the soup to a blender, filling the blender no more than halfway (be careful not to scoop up the bayleaf of Parm rind). Puree until smooth, then stir back into the soup (you also can place an immersion blender directly in the pot and blend BRIEFLY. You want to puree part of the beans to thicken the soup but still have plenty of beans intact—remove the bayleaf and Parmesan rind while you do this to make sure you don’t blend them, then add them back to the soup).
- Stir in the pasta. Bring the soup to a constant, rapid simmer and let cook, stirring often to keep the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pot, until the pasta is al dente, about 15 minutes. Partially cover the pot to keep the soup from splattering all over your stove.
- Stir in the red wine vinegar, parsley, and cooked beef. If the soup is thicker than you would like, add water or additional broth, until your desired consistency is reached. Taste and adjust seasoning as desired (I usually add a few pinches of salt). Serve hot, with a generous sprinkle of Parmesan, a drizzle of olive oil, and additional fresh herbs.
- TO STORE: Store leftover pasta fagioli in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 5 days.
- TO REHEAT: Warm on the stovetop or in the microwave until steaming.
- TO FREEZE: Freeze pasta fagioli for up to 3 months. Thaw overnight in the refrigerator before reheating.
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