A satisfying peasant soup filled with hearty beans and vegetables.
White bean soup, or pasta e fagioli (pronounced “Pasta-fa-ZHOOL”), is an Italian peasant meal. This means, of course, that it tastes hearty and delicious, and uses fresh, inexpensive ingredients.
Translated literally as “pasta and beans,” this rustic, creamy bean soup has no meat. No cream. No broth even. The recipe relies squarely on the simple magic of dried cannellini beans, carrots, celery, onion, garlic, herbs, tomato paste, and water. Plus a secret trick or two.
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A Tip to Make Your White Bean Soup the Best.
As with all recipes that rely on just a few simple ingredients, the right technique and good ingredient quality make the difference. Pasta e fagioli should be creamy, thick, and full of flavor with just a hint of tomato.
This is accomplished in two ways:
- Use dried beans. True, dried beans add time compared to their canned cousin. However, the soup will be much creamier and “beanier” because the beans’ starch thickens the broth and adds more bean flavor. In any event, you can cut down on fully half the bean cooking time with the important, tried-and true, science-backed pro tip below.
- Add baking soda to the cannellini bean cooking liquid. This is a great example of cooking-meets-science. I could get into a whole discussion about alkaline pH levels and pectin molecules and sodium ions. But I won’t, because someone named Dr. Guy Crosby of The Bean Institute can do that for me. Also: There’s a Bean Institute. Also x 2: The Bean Institute website has a “What Type of Bean Are You?” personality quiz, which of course I took. (White kidney bean.) Suffice to say that adding a small amount of baking soda makes the beans soft and tender in half the time.
The pasta part of the pasta e fagioli comes in at the end: Ditalini is the best, most authentic pasta shape, but any small, sturdy pasta (such as elbows or small shells) will do. This recipe makes a nice, big batch of soup, and good thing — it will be devoured immediately.
What is your favorite soup? Tell us in the comments, below.
Rosemary White Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli)
For the Soup
- 1 pound dried cannellini beans
- 2 teaspoons baking soda (only if using dried beans)
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 pound carrots, peeled and diced
- 1 head celery, diced
- 3 tablespoons tomato paste
- 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 sprig fresh thyme
- 2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, minced
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt, or to taste
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 2 tablespoons butter (optional)
- 1/2 pound ditalini or other small pasta, cooked al dente
- Grated Pecorino-Romano cheese
- Minced fresh parsley, to garnish
For the Beans
- In a large stock pot, cover beans with about three quarts water. Add the baking soda, bay leaves, and thyme.
- Bring to a boil (careful -- it may foam), then simmer, covered, until the beans are fully softened, approximately 1 hour, maybe a little more. Stir occasionally.TIP: For the true bean nerd in search of soup extra credit, Serious Eats did a fascinating and highly-scientific look at when and why to salt dried beans.
For the Soup
- Add the carrots, celery, onion, garlic, tomato paste, salt, and rosemary. Check the water level; you may need to add some more if there is not enough broth. Bring to a boil, then simmer, partially covered, until the vegetables are soft and the soup has come together, about 30 to 45 minutes minutes. Stir occasionally. Now is a nice time to separately cook your pasta, if adding. TIP: If you are substituting canned beans instead of dried, add the beans, drained, to the soup pot once the vegetables, tomato paste, thyme, bay leaves, and rosemary have finished cooking in about 2 1/2 quarts of water, for about 30 minutes.
- Check the seasoning and add red pepper flakes if desired. Stir in the butter (if adding), red wine vinegar, and cooked pasta. Ladle into bowls, top with grated cheese such as Pecorino-Romano, and a little parsley.