Delicious and Versatile Classic Italian Rice Salad Recipe

Delve into the heart of Southern Italian cuisine with the classic pasta e fagioli recipe. This beloved dish, known for its simplicity and depth of flavour, combines tender pasta with hearty beans in a savoury broth. Discover the secrets to crafting the perfect pasta e fagioli as I take you through each step of this traditional recipe.

Servings

 

4

Ready In:

 

3-4 hours

Calories:

 

406

Good For:

 

Hearty Dinner

Discovering Pasta e Fagioli

By: Silvana Lanzetta

Pasta e fagioli, a quintessential dish of Italian cuisine, is a true comfort food – rich, creamy, and utterly satisfying. It’s a must-have in every Italian food lover’s repertoire.

To be candid, I used to detest it as a child. Every time my mum whipped it up, I’d put up a fierce protest, to no avail. Her mantra was simple: “You eat it anyway!” So, begrudgingly, I did.

After my mum passed away when I was 22, I steered clear of pasta with beans for years. But one day, feeling terribly homesick while living in Paris, I decided to give it another shot. And guess what? I fell in love with it!

Now, with kids of my own who adore beans, adding this delicious pasta dish to our menu is a breeze. Plus, it’s incredibly healthy, so it’s a win-win situation!

In Naples, we cook pasta directly with the legumes, preserving the starch in the pasta and creating a wonderfully creamy texture – what we call “azzeccosa” in Neapolitan dialect, meaning sticky. It’s common to enjoy pasta e fagioli the day after cooking, thanks to its impressive shelf life.

Neapolitan pasta e fagioli boasts various adaptations, with mixed short pasta commonly used and tomato absent in some recipes. Pork rinds or mussels are also popular additions – my mum favoured the former, instilling in me a love for this version. However, the mussels variation is equally delicious and worth a try.

 

italian rice salad in a glass bowl overhead shot
marble bust of Cicero

It’s said that the great Cicero was very fond of pasta with beans

Where does pasta e fagioli come from?

The tradition of cooking pasta and pulses together dates back centuries, though its exact origin remains uncertain and debated. Some say it was enjoyed in Roman times, with a pasta called “sagne” cooked alongside chickpeas (a pulse widely used in Roman times) and a flavourful sautรฉ of celery, garlic, rosemary, and occasionally guanciale in olive oil. The introduction of beans, however, came much later, after the discovery of the Americas by Christopher Columbus in the late 15th century.

This beloved recipe is cherished across Italy, from Lazio to Campania, Tuscany to Piedmont, and Veneto. Each region boasts its own unique twist, making it a dish with countless variations to suit every palate and dietary preference. So, while there may not be a definitive recipe, one thing’s for sure โ€“ every rendition of pasta e fagioli is simply delicious!

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Nutrition

 

This recipe provides a balanced combination of carbohydrates, protein, and fat, making it a satisfying and nourishing meal option. It’s rich in complex carbohydrates from the pasta and borlotti beans, which provide sustained energy. Additionally, the beans contribute a good amount of protein, essential for muscle repair and overall body function. The extra virgin olive oil adds healthy fats, which are important for heart health and nutrient absorption.

Overall, this pasta e fagioli recipe offers a hearty and wholesome meal option that can fit into a balanced diet when consumed in moderation.

  • Proteins 17% 17%
  • Carbs 39% 39%
  • Fats 40% 40%
  • Fibres 4% 4%
italian rice salad with tuna, closeup shot

Key ingredients to make pasta with beans

Pasta

When it comes to pasta e fagioli, choosing the right pasta is key to a truly satisfying dish. You’ll want something small yet sturdy, capable of holding its own in the rich, flavourful broth packed with beans and tomatoes. Here are some top picks to elevate your pasta e fagioli game:

  1. Ditalini: Picture-perfect tube-shaped pasta, ditalini are a staple in pasta e fagioli. They’re masters at soaking up all the delicious flavours of the broth while retaining their delightful shape and texture.
  2. Shells: Conchigliette or small shell-shaped pasta are another fantastic option. Their clever nooks and crannies are adept at catching beans and other goodies, ensuring each spoonful is bursting with flavour.
  3. Elbows: all elbow-shaped pasta, like elbow macaroni, bring a comforting texture to pasta e fagioli. They hug onto the beans, creating a symphony of flavours in every mouthful.
  4. Tubetti: Tubetti or small tube-shaped pasta are also a hit in pasta e fagioli. Bigger than ditalini, their hearty bite and knack for soaking up flavours make them a perfect match for this hearty dish.

And let’s not forget about the Neapolitan twist! In Naples, we take things up a notch by using a mix of these small pasta shapes. Picture a medley of ditalini, shells, elbows, tubes, short mafaldine, and snapped spaghetti sticking together in the bowl, creating a visual feast for the eyes and a symphony of textures for the palate. It’s a celebration of diversity, with each pasta shape bringing its own unique charm to the table. So, if you’re ready to embrace the Neapolitan tradition and take your pasta e fagioli to new heights, why not give mixed pasta a try? It’s a surefire way to elevate your dish and treat your taste buds to an unforgettable experience.

 

MiGarlic, Celery, & Co.

Garlic adds this incredible depth and aroma to the dish. Just a couple of cloves can really bring out those delicious savoury notes that we all love. And then there’s celery โ€“ it’s the unsung hero of the kitchen! When you chop it up and sautรฉ it with some olive oil, it releases this amazing sweetness that takes the dish to a whole new level.

Now, if you want to try an alternative, you can use the soffritto. It’s a mix of sautรฉed onions, carrots, and celery that packs a serious flavour punch. But here’s the twist โ€“ if you’re using soffritto, you skip the garlic. Mixing them up is a big no-no in Italian cuisine! The onions bring a subtle sweetness, the carrots add a touch of earthiness, and the celery? Well, it just works its magic as always.

So, whether you’re sticking with garlic or opting for a soffritto, you’re guaranteed to end up with a pasta with beans that’s bursting with irresistible flavour!

 

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Beans

When it comes to making pasta e fagioli, choosing the perfect beans is key to achieving that delicious, comforting flavour. The deliciously creamy, nutty borlotti beans are a classic choice. But what if you’re feeling adventurous or can’t find borlotti beans at your local market? Fear not! There’s a whole world of bean possibilities waiting to be explored:

  1. Cannellini Beans: Creamy and mild, cannellini beans are a popular option for pasta e fagioli. They soak up the flavours of the broth beautifully and add a lovely texture to the dish.
  2. Kidney Beans: With their hearty texture and robust flavour, kidney beans are another excellent choice. They hold up well in the broth and provide a satisfying bite.
  3. Great Northern Beans: Similar to cannellini beans, Great Northern beans are creamy and mild. They’re a versatile option that works well in pasta e fagioli.
  4. Navy Beans: Petite and tender, navy beans have a delicate flavour that complements the dish nicely. They’re a bit smaller in size but still pack a punch in terms of taste and texture.

Whether you stick with borlotti beans or try one of these substitutes, you’re sure to end up with a delicious bowl of pasta e fagioli that’s perfect for warming you up on a chilly day.

 

Pork Rind

In pasta with beans, pork rind does something special to the dish. You see, it adds this lovely smoky flavour and richness to the broth that just makes it taste so much better. It also gives the broth a bit of a hearty texture, which makes every spoonful feel really satisfying. While you don’t have to add it, throwing in some pork rind can really take your pasta with beans to the next level, giving it that authentic Italian vibe that we all love.

 

ย  Tomato

Let’s talk about why it’s essential to use plum tomatoes in pasta with beans. You see, other types of tomatoes tend to be too seedy to add to the dish. But plum tomatoes? They’re the perfect match! Fleshy, juicy and flavourful, they bring a wonderful depth of flavour without overwhelming the dish with seeds. Their smooth texture blends seamlessly into the sauce, creating a velvety consistency that’s simply irresistible.

Whether you’re using fresh peeled plum tomatoes or opting for canned varieties, they ensure you’re getting the purest tomato flavour in every bite of your pasta with beans. Just a handful of these juicy tomatoes can make all the difference, transforming your dish into a comforting and satisfying meal that hits all the right notes.

In the worst-case scenario where plum tomatoes are unavailable, tomato paste can be used as an alternative. While it won’t provide the same texture as fresh tomatoes, it will still infuse the dish with a rich tomato flavour that complements the beans beautifully.

 

How to make pasta with beans step by step

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pasta e fagioli close up

pasta e fagioli


  • Author: Silvana Lanzetta
  • Total Time: 3 hours
  • Yield: 4 portions 1x
  • Diet: Vegan

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 350 g ditali pasta or other small pasta
  • 300 g dried borlotti beans
  • 80 g uncooked pork rind (optional)
  • 200 g peeled tomatoes
  • 80 g extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves Garlic
  • 60 g Celery
  • 2 Bay leaves
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Instructions

  1. To make pasta with beans, begin by soaking the beans in water for 12 hours or overnight. After soaking, drain and rinse the beans thoroughly.
  2. Next, place the beans in a large pot with enough cold water to cover them completely. Add the bay leaves and cook the beans over low heat for 2-3 hours. Remember not to add salt at this stage. Occasionally check the beans for tenderness.
  3. While the beans are cooking, prepare the pork rind (if using) by removing any hairs and boiling it in water for about 20 minutes until it becomes tender. Once cooked, drain the pork rind and let it cool before slicing it into thin strips.
  4. Meanwhile, finely chop the celery and crush the garlic cloves. In a separate pot, gently heat some extra-virgin olive oil and add the chopped celery and crushed garlic. Let them cook slowly over low heat until fragrant.
  5. Once the garlic and celery are cooked, add the crushed tomatoes to the pot and cook for about 10 minutes until the mixture thickens slightly.
  6. When the beans are tender, remove the bay leaves and transfer the beans to the pot with the tomato mixture using a slotted spoon. Reserve some of the bean cooking water.
  7. Add 2-3 ladles of the bean cooking water to the pot with the tomato mixture. Bring the mixture to a gentle boil before adding the cooked pork rind strips.
  8. Next, add the pasta to the pot and season with salt to taste. Cook the pasta until it is al dente, adding more bean cooking water if necessary to achieve the desired consistency.
  9. Once the pasta is cooked, turn off the heat and add plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Allow the dish to rest for 10 minutes before serving to allow the flavours to meld together. This resting period will also make the dish creamier.
  10. Serve the pasta e fagioli hot.

Notes

Pasta with beans can be refrigerated for 1-2 days to enjoy later.

Freezing is not recommended.

If preferred, canned borlotti beans can be used instead of dried ones. The cooking time will be reduced to 30 minutes, as there’s no need to boil the beans beforehand.

Instead of canned tomatoes, opt for fresh tomatoes when in season or tomato paste for a richer flavour.

For those who prefer, omitting the pork rind and increasing the olive oil quantity is an alternative option.

Traditionally, pasta e fagioli is served without grated cheese, making this version an ideal meal for vegetarians and vegans (if the pork rind is not used).

For a velvety texture, consider blending a portion of the beans before adding them to the dish.

To vary the flavour profile, you can incorporate carrots and onions alongside celery as an alternative to garlic.

Finish your pasta and beans with a drizzle of raw olive oil and a pinch of chilli flakes for an even more delicious and fiery taste!

  • Prep Time: 30 minutes
  • Soaking Time: 12 hours
  • Cook Time: 2 hours 30 minutes
  • Category: Pasta
  • Method: slow cooking
  • Cuisine: Italian
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FAQs

What is pasta fagioli made of?

Pasta fagioli is primarily composed of small pasta such as ditali and beans like cannellini or borlotti. Additional ingredients can vary depending on regional variations, family recipes, and the type of beans used. In the Neapolitan version, typical ingredients include garlic, celery, tomatoes, optional uncooked pork rind, water, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Other variations may substitute garlic with a soffritto (finely chopped carrots, onions, and celery), replace water with vegetable broth, or incorporate extra ingredients such as mussels.

What is the difference between pasta fagioli and minestrone?

While both pasta fagioli and minestrone are hearty Italian soups containing pasta and vegetables, there are some differences between them. Pasta fagioli is primarily a pasta and bean soup, whereas minestrone typically includes a wider variety of vegetables along with pasta. Additionally, pasta fagioli tends to have a thicker consistency due to the inclusion of beans, while minestrone is often more broth-based.

Is What does "e fagioli" mean?

“E fagioli” is Italian for “and beans.” In the context of the dish “pasta e fagioli,” it signifies the combination of pasta and beans as the main ingredients.

How do you say pasta e fagioli in Italian?

In Italian, “pasta e fagioli” is pronounced as “pah-stah eh fah-joh-lee.”

Can I use different types of beans for Pasta e Fagioli?

Yes, you can experiment with various types of beans, such as cannellini beans, borlotti beans, or kidney beans, to add your own twist to the recipe. Each type of bean brings its unique flavour and texture to the dish.

How long does it take to cook Pasta e Fagioli?

The cooking time for Pasta e Fagioli may vary depending on the type of pasta and beans used. On average, it takes approximately 3 hours to prepare this dish from start to finish, especially when using dry beans. However, if you opt for canned beans, the cooking time reduces considerably to about 30-40 minutes.

Silvana Lanzetta

Silvana Lanzetta

โ€œCiao, Iโ€™m Silvana, a fourth-generation pasta artisan from Napoli with a lifetime of experience! I began making pasta at the tender age of 5 under the watchful eye of my pasta-making generalissimo, my granny. Through her guidance, Iโ€™ve become a master in crafting traditional pasta dishes. Since 2014, I have been teaching pasta making classes in London, sharing my expertise with aspiring pasta enthusiasts. Iโ€™ve also had the privilege of showcasing my knowledge on BBC and in national newspapers like The Sun and iNews, and held pasta making demonstration in Harrods. Join me in exploring the world of Italian pasta and letโ€™s create unforgettable culinary experiences together!โ€

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