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PASTA E FAGIOLI Pasta e fagioli is a thick soup of borlotti (cranberry) beans, herbs (I prefer rosemary and sage), and usually some kind of pork product. I like prosciutto skin, but you can use a number of common supermarket items to impart the desired porky saltiness; a smoked ham hock would also work well. Just before serving, a small tubular pasta such as tubetini or ditalini or a fresh pasta such as maltagliati is added, and then the soup is finished with olive oil, black pepper, sea salt, and parsley. This is the first soup I learned to make at Spiaggia, though there we actually made zuppa di gran farro alla Lucchese, meaning “in the style of Lucca,” where pasta e fagioli is fortified with farro instead of pasta; see the variation.

  • Yield: 4 to 8 Servings


  • 1½ cups dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
  • 3 ounces smoky bacon, diced (slab bacon or salt pork can be substituted)
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 Spanish onion, cut into small dice
  • 1 large celery stalk, trimmed and cut into small dice
  • 1 large carrot, cut into small dice
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 6 cups water
  • 1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano or
  • organic, crushed by hand, with their juice
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 sage sprig
  • Kosher salt
  • 1 cup ditalini, tubetini, or other small dried pasta
  • 2 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Extra virgin olive oil, for serving
  • A wedge of Parmigiano-Reggiano, for grating
How to Make It
  1. Put the beans in a bowl, cover with cold water, and soak overnight. (Alternatively, you can quick-soak the beans; see this page.) Drain.
  2. Heat a large heavy pot over low heat. Add the bacon and cook, stirring, just until it is lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Pour in ¼ cup of the olive oil, raise the heat to medium-high, and heat it for a minute or two. Stir in the onions, celery, carrots, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened but not browned, about 10 minutes. Add the beans, water, and tomatoes, with their juice, raise the heat to high, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the liquid is simmering, add the rosemary and sage, and cook until the beans are tender, 1 to 1½ hours.
  3. While the soup is cooking, bring a medium pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. Drain and transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the remaining ¼ cup olive oil and the parsley and season with salt and pepper. Toss and set aside.
  4. When the soup is ready, fish out the herbs with tongs and discard them. Season the soup to taste with salt and pepper.
  5. The consistency of the soup is a matter of personal preference: I prefer a thicker soup in the winter and a brothier one in the summer. If you find it too thick, thin it with water. Or, for a thicker, heartier soup, ladle 1 to 2 cups of the solids into a food mill or food processor, pass through the mill or process, and stir back into the soup. Or use an immersion blender, tilting the pot to consolidate the solids, and blend some of them to attain your preferred consistency.
  6. Stir the pasta into the soup and rewarm it. Ladle the soup into large bowls, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil, and grate some cheese over each serving. Finish with a few grinds of black pepper and serve immediately.
  7. Variations This is a versatile recipe, To make zuppa di fagioli, or bean soup, such as the one pictured on here, simply omit the pasta.
  8. For a richer flavor, replace the water with Chicken Stock or add a bouillon cube. For an even thicker, heartier soup, whisk a mashed peeled baked potato into the finished soup.
  9. To make the soup with farro (see the headnote), replace the pasta with 1 cup farro, cooked according to the package instructions. For a more Roman-style soup, substitute fresh maltagliati for the small pasta.
  10. If you like, stir 1 pound kale (coarse stems and ribs removed), cut into thick ribbons (about 4 cups), into the soup along with the pasta.

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