Warming and filling, simple and frugal, and a complete meal in one bowl - you can't go wrong with my traditional, veggie-packed pasta fagioli (aka pasta fazool). Like so much cucina povera, this Tuscan pasta and bean soup (or minestra di pasta e fagioli to give it its northern Italian name), has as many variations as there are villages in Italy!
Despite pasta fagioli hailing from Tuscany, minestra is actually Venetian dialect for soup, while zuppa is Italian. Zuppa is generally a smooth or puréed soup, while minestra is a more substantial broth with bits in.
BTW, minestra has the same root as ‘minus’, as it was originally deemed the food of servants (minor people- i.e. those of a lower status). In Roman times it was known as ‘minestrare‘ – "that which is served/those who serve". It's where we get the modern verb, to minister. And hence, minestrone is food given to the servants.
When the stars make you drool,
Just like pasta fazool,
You may be more familiar with pasta fazool than minestra di pasta e fagioli! Fazool seems to be an Americanisation of various Italian dialects for bean; fasul (Napoli), or fasulu (Sicilia).
In Venezia, it's faxiolo, and in Slovenian, it's fižol, which is not surprising, given how close Slovenia is to Friuli-Venezia Giulia. And yes, former Yugoslavian countries all have a version of pasta fagioli! The Serbs simply call it posni pasulj (fasting beans), on account of it being consumed during the Great Lent.
In Croatia, pasta fagioli is known as pašta fažol, although in the Dalmatia region, it's called pašta i važoli. Again, it's not surprising, given that Dalmatia was actually Venetian for almost 400 years. (And of course, a Roman province, too for a few centuries!)
We used to live in Rijeka (Croatia), where some people still speak a version of Venetian, called Fiumano, and I often came across familiar words while shopping at the market!
(Rijeka and Fiume mean 'river' in Croatian and Italian, respectively.)
Incidentally, Rijeka has actually changed hands so many times during the past century, that my friend, Ester's grandmother, who was born in Rijeka in 1920 (when it was a free state), used say;
If I came to life only one year earlier I would have had 6 citizenships in my life, without ever moved from here. If people from democratic countries would see all of my passports, they would think I am a bandit with fake documents!
Variations on a theme
While essentially a vegetarian dish, I have known friends to add leftover cuts of meat to pasta fagioli. I sometimes add sliced vegan sausages, which makes this soup even more filling.
If I have some tomato sauce in the fridge that needs using up, it's also been known to make its way in. Some folk I know swear by using broth only, while others like it more tomato-based. In general, I do prefer my pasta fagioli brothy.
pasta fagioli ingredients
Although there is a basic premise that it must have pasta and beans, and start with soffritto, there is no one right way of making this soup - just use what you have in the kitchen.
- Soffritto (celery, carrot, onion, garlic, herbs)
- White beans
- Cavolo nero
- Short pasta
- Seasonings and aromatics (pepper, olive oil, and parsley)
This is not a soup that requires you to go out and buy special ingredients - it's one to use up less-than-perfect veggies, those bits of broken pasta left in the bottom of the jar, and any broth or sauce you may have hanging around.
As such, this pasta fagioli recipe is akin to the Pirate Code - more a set of guidelines! 😉
How to make pasta fagioli
Making pasta fagioli is really, really easy!
- Once you've made your soffritto, add the broth, bring to the boil, and then simmer for five minutes.
- Add half the beans and all of the tomato, mash the remaining beans, then add to the soup, along with the pasta, kale, and parsley.
- Give it a good stir, and then continue to simmer for another 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.
- Turn off the heat, and skim the soup to remove any froth, then serve with a grind of black pepper. And a chunk of fresh bread if you feel so inclined!
- If you want, you could add a few slices of vegan sausage during the last five minutes of cooking, and finish with a little of my parmesan when you serve up.
Tips for making pasta fagioli
- Make a double batch of soffritto, and keep half in the fridge for making quick soups, stews, sauces, etc.
- If you don't have cavolo nero, you could use dark green cabbage, such as Sweetheart. Or spring greens (collards), or a different type of kale.
- If you use tinned beans, don't throw away the liquid; the aquafaba (bean water) makes a fantastic egg replacer in many recipes such as veganaise, macaroons, and brownies!
- Ingredients in the soup section are a guideline; if you want more pasta or beans, go for it. A bit less? No problem. Different veggies? Knock yourself out!
- If you don't have any vegetable broth made, use a couple of stock cubes and some water. Or use some bouillon, such as Marigold, or stock powder, such as Massel.
If you like my pasta fagioli, check out these other vegan Italian recipes!
You'll love this pasta fagioli
- quick to make
- high in fibre
- low in calories
- packed with protein
- bursting with Vitamins and minerals
- easy to make
- deliciously satisfying!
Pasta Fagioli (vegan)
For the soup
- 1 batch soffritto
- 1½ litres vegetable broth
- 200 g cooked white beans
- 2 tablespoon flat leaf parsley finely chopped
- 1 large plum tomato coarsely chopped
- A few leaves of cavolo nero roughly torn
- 50 g mixed short pasta (dry weight)
- Sea salt and pepper to taste
- ground black pepper
- Vegan parmesan
- Vegan sausages sliced
- Fresh crusty bread
- Add the soffritto to a large pan, along with the vegetable broth. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, and simmer for 5 mins.
- Add half the beans and all of the tomato.
- Mash the remaining beans, then add to the soup. Add the pasta, kale, and parsley, and stir.
- Cook gently for another 8-10 minutes, until the pasta is al dente, stirring once or twice to prevent the mixture sticking, then turn off the heat, and skim the soup to remove any froth.
- Ladle into dishes or bowls, grind a little black pepper over the top, and serve.
- Add a few slices of vegan sausage during the last 5 mins of simmering. You could also finish the soup with a sprinkling of vegan parmesan, and serve with a chunk of fresh crusty bread or sourdough.
- 1 cup = US cup = 240 ml
- 1 tablespoon = US/UK = 15 ml
- 1 fl oz = US = 30 ml
Pasta & Beans.. one of my all time favourite combinations. So simple, and so satisfying. x
I love them together (and rice and beans) - truly a match made in Heaven, Louise!
Just the kind of soup to warm your toes. Lovely presentation too. Your tips are helpful as well.
Thanks for stopping by, Lisa - I'm so glad you like this.
This is a beautiful recipe, full of wonderful flavours! I learned something new! Thanks! 🙂
Hi Monika - thank you so much for taking the time to comment. I'm really pleased you like the recipe. Your comments are always most welcome, and I thank you again! xx
Angela / Only Crumbs Remain
I love homemade soup Nico, and yet I have somehow never made anything like this. I love the sound of it, and the fact that it's so easy to make, certainly one to try. Pinning,
It's one of my favourite soups, Angela; it's so filling, and really cheap to make too - such a winning combination. And of course, because you can just chuck in whatever you have to hand, everyone's is different. I love foods like that. I definitely recommend you try it at least once!
What a lovely soup! I eat a lot of soups at this time of year and often just throw whatever is in the fridge into the soup plus a tin of beans. Interesting to read about the soffrito and how universal it is throughout Europe but with just a few variations. Thank you so much!
I'm a huge fan of 'fridge soups, Corina - in fact, I currently have two containers of it in the freezer. Around mid-December, I start making lots of it, ready for when the snow comes. We haven't been snowed in yet but while I'm happy to go out and play in the snow, I don't want to have to trudge to the shops!
Soffritto is such a great base for soups and sauces, and for pottage too!
I'm feeling all beany at the moment so this will do great! #brilliantblogposts
Beans and cool weather just seem to go so well together, don't they, TP? Thanks for dropping by! 🙂
Eb Gargano / easypeasyfoodie.com
Ooh great minds think alike - have a very similar recipe coming out next week. Very different take on it though: more tomatoey and less soupy. I spent 6 weeks in Italy in my early twenties and stayed with a proper Italian family in Florence. We had some variation of this pretty much every day as our first course. I absolutely love it! 🙂 Eb x
There seem to be a few of us blogging this soup; one of my chums Instagrammed hers a couple of days ago... just a couple of hours before mine went live! And it looks divine!
Bring it on, I say - let's get the message out there! I love how we all make it differently too - and discovering each other's recipes is one of the best thing about being in blogging groups, isn't it?
Weirdly, even though I'm half-Venetian, and my son studied art there, I've never actually been to Firenze (playing Assassin's Creed doesn't really count, does it?!). I'll get there one day though - maybe even next year... as yet, I have no plans beyond June! After living for a while in the south, just outside Napoli, I could really do with re-acquainting myself with the decorum of the north! It's a different world!
I'm already looking forward to your recipe, Eb!
Yay for hearty soup! I had this for lunch today - no 4pm munchies or blood-sugar drop. In fact, I only just started feeling peckish around 6.30pm!
I can feel the urge coming to cook one!
Voilà, the subtleties are understood. Thank you! 🙂 Mine is usually very hearty, as a one cup container is sufficient for my work lunch.
Ju, I am really glad you enjoy my little explanations!
Yes, it has the same root. Minestrone really just means 'the big soup', and is the same basic concept as pasta e fagioli, although some people prefer to use rice instead of pasta, and a lot omit the beans altogether. Again, it really depends on what you have in the cupboard.
British people, I've noticed, tend to make minestrone as a thin broth with a few token diced vegetables sitting at the bottom of the bowl, and some broken bits of vermicelli floating around... this isn't going to sustain your servants! Nor will it provide a hearty meal when you come in from a day's labouring in the field! 😉 I rather fear that the British have refined this marvellous soup a bit too much - I blame the 1970s!
Me too, Berry! Peasant cooking is the best.. yet you go to restaurants and they charge a fortune for it!
Do let me know how you get on with it.
Looks good! I appreciate your explanation of where these recipes originate. Is a minestra basically the same as a minestrone? Sounds like similar type of ingredients.
Fantastic, thanks so much for this Nicole! I'm a huge fan of hearty peasant-style cooking and anything with beans is a bonus. I'll take a picture when I've made it.