Have you ever heard of pasta fagioli? First, it’s Italian so it’s technically called pasta e fagioli, pronounced “pas-ta fa-jo-li” in English, and literally means ‘pasta and beans’. It’s a classic Italian soup, but depending on the variety of bean and type of pasta, it can almost be called a stew.
There are different versions you can make, some with tomato based sauce and some without. We chose a version that almost acts more like a white bean chili – although no strong spices. Rather, it has very light and simple flavors. I like this recipe so much because it is super easy to make and will last your family for several meals. It reheats so well, so I’ve been taking leftovers to work all week.Oh, by the way, did I tell you that my culinary dreams have come true? Finally, I have a gorgeous Dutch oven (c/o) I can call my own! Yes, I know it sounds silly, but I’ve been daydreaming about the day I will finally own a quality Dutch oven that I can use to make hearty family dishes all year long.
My friends at Emile Henry sent me this gorgeous red Dutch oven and I’ve been contemplating what dish to make first. I opted to try making pasta e fagioli as the inaugural dish for a couple reasons. First, it’s a classic one-pot dish that I’ve never had. Second, I’m always trying to find classic Italian recipes I’ve never tried to pay homage to my family heritage.Pasta fagioli is a perfect one-pot meal recipe that works just as well for lunch as for dinner. Our version is pretty healthy, with the only meat and fat coming from the bacon. If you’re vegetarian, you could actually just leave out the bacon and swap in some mushrooms for the richness you get from the bacon. I’m so excited about how simple and hearty this recipe is. I can’t wait to try other versions this winter.
I would like to give special thanks to my friends at Emile Henry for the gorgeous Dutch oven!
How to Make Pasta E Fagioli
- 8 cups water
- 2 1/2 tbsp. salt, divided
- 1 lb. dried cannellini beans
- 1/2 lb. (5 to 6 pieces) thick-cut bacon, diced
- 2 large yellow onions, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 4 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 cup white wine or water
- 1 bay leaf
- 1/2 lb. pasta
- 5 thyme sprigs
- 10 oz. baby spinach
- 2 tsp. salt
- Pepper to taste
- Combine the water and 1 1/2 tablespoons salt in a large mixing bowl and stir to dissolve the salt. Add the beans, cover the bowl, and let stand at least 6 hours or overnight.
- Preheat the oven to 325°F. In a heavy Dutch oven over medium heat, cook the bacon.
- Once all the fat has rendered, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and drain on a paper towel-lined plate.
- Remove all but one tablespoon of bacon fat and cook the onions slowly with 1/2 teaspoon of salt start to caramelize and turn golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
- Add the celery and cook just until the celery is softened about 3 minutes.
- Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
- Remove half of the onion mixture and reserve with the bacon.
- Deglaze the pan with one cup of wine or water, scraping up any brown residue that has formed on the bottom of the pan.
- Drain and rinse the beans and pour them into the pot with the remaining onions.
- Add the bay leaf, 1 teaspoon of salt, and enough water to cover the beans and onions by 1 inch.
- Cover the pot, transfer to the oven, cook for 1 hour, then continue to check the beans for doneness.
- Check the beans every 15 minutes until they are completely soft and creamy. (This can take up to 2 1/2 hours depending on the age and exact variety of your beans.)
- Set the pot of cooked beans over medium-high heat on the stovetop.
- Add the bacon, reserved onions, thyme, pasta, 1 teaspoon of salt, and cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. You can add more water if necessary so the pasta is submerged.
- Add the spinach to the pot and stir until it is wilted. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stems.
- Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Enjoy with fresh pepper and grated parmesan.
We also served ours with fresh baguette slices. This will keep for up to a week in the refrigerator, or longer if frozen.
Reheating note: We noticed our stew thickened up over time. The pasta and the beans absorbed a lot of the water. To loosen up the stew, to make it more soup-like, you can simply add some chicken or vegetable stock before you microwave it.