Pasta e Fagioli

My dad’s mom made pasta e fagioli, or pasta fazool in Italian-American lingo, long before it was a popular restaurant dish.  It is the epitome of Italian-American comfort food.

Grandma Nappa made enormous size pots of this dish back when my dad was growing up.  He was one of 12 kids, not to mention his small tribe of half brothers and sisters—oh, and first, second, and third cousins—plus great aunts and uncles who showed up for dinner. They had friends too.

Pasta e fagioli is pasta and beans with a dab of tomato, although it is one of those dishes that varies among families in its ingredients.  My grandma and my parents like to use navy beans in their fazool, but I like the traditional cannellini beans.

Sometimes we add a scoop or two of leftover Sunday sauce instead of the tomato paste.  If I don’t have leftover sauce, I like to use three or four canned plum tomatoes, crushed with my fingers, and then dropped into the simmering beans.

We generally use ditalini pasta, but any small pasta will do.  Cook the pasta separately so that it doesn’t absorb all of the rich bean juice.

Traditionally, this is not a meat dish.  If you add Sunday sauce, it’s possible that a few pepperoni or sausage will sneak in.  My dad wanted to add a little Italian sausage today, so we browned it up separately and added it to the pasta mixture.

I like to add a healthy pinch of crushed red pepper to the olive oil and garlic.

Fazool can be served as a thick pasta and bean dish, but it’s most often served as a soup.  Make sure you cook the beans with plenty of water if it’s soup you’re after.  Either way, it’s good.

Pasta e Fagioli Recipe
 
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Prep time: 
Cook time: 
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Ingredients
  • ¼ cup olive oil
  • 2 or 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
  • pinch of crushed red pepper (optional)
  • 1 pound of dried cannellini or navy beans
  • 1½ cups uncooked ditalini or other small pasta
  • Tomato paste, Sunday sauce, or canned whole plum tomatoes
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Wash the beans and soak in water for several hours or overnight. Drain water. Add beans to a large stock pot and add enough generously salted water to cover the beans by about 2 inches. Bring the beans to a boil. Cover, then reduce heat and simmer until tender, about 2 hours. The bean liquid is the soup broth.
  2. In a medium size pot, bring about 6 cups of generously salted water to a boil. Add pasta, and reduce heat. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain, and set aside.
  3. Heat oil in large stock pot, and add garlic and red pepper. When the garlic starts to cook, add tomatoes and stir well. Cook for about 5 minutes, then add 5 cups of beans, including the liquid. Mix well. Then add cooked pasta. Add salt as needed, and simmer for about 10 minutes. The pasta will eventually become soft. Add more bean liquid if you want the fazool to be soupy instead of thick.
Notes
Omit the sausage for the more traditional pasta e fagioli dish.

Comments

  1. SUSAN says

    thank u !!! this is the closest I could find to my Grandmother’s recipe. In fact, I think its the same. On the stove now. I knew right away by the picture.

  2. Frank says

    This looks like the real thing! Too many recipes at various food websites include ground meat, celery, carrots, etc. When it comes to a dish like this, less is more!! Keep it simple, keep it traditional, keep it delicious!! Thanks!!

  3. DeCato says

    Somebody in my office is eating something that reminds me of my mothers fazool. Then I saw this picture and now I need some. Just asked my mother for her recipe. This looks very close to what she used to make and now I want some so badly.

  4. says

    I just came across your post and I love it…it’s the first and only time I have seen someone else spell it “fazool” hahahah!!! thank you so much!!! I am writing a little family cookbook and including my gram’s Pasta Fazool recipe in it.
    Love and cheers,
    Pam

  5. says

    Oh…would it be ok for me to use one of your images in my cookbook? I am not selling them…it’s only for my MOM and 4 other people in my family. Promise.
    Pam

      • says

        Thx Sherry! I have decided to make my Grandma’s recipe myself and take a pic for the book…looking at your ingredients…she always used Yellow Eye Beans…but did use ditalini pasta. But thx again…
        Pam

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