Pasta e Fagioli is a hearty pasta and kidney beans soup, from the heartland of delicious food, Italy. It's a filling lunch ready in under 30 minutes and tastes absolutely amazing. Plus, you can make a batch of it at the weekend and enjoy it all week long - it's a great time-saver.
Pasta and kidney beans soup (Pasta e Fagioli) originates from the Campania region of Italy and was considered a peasant dish due to its simple ingredients, but simple is often best and this soup packs a punch of flavour whilst being cheap to create and easy to make! This is one of my favourite Italian pasta dishes - it's packed full of flavour, cosy and comforting.
We make a tomato stew, starting with bacon or pancetta to flavour the fat and cook the onion before adding garlic, oregano, bay leaves and a hint of chilli spice. The kidney beans soup is cooked with chicken broth to give it some meaty depth and I add parmesan rind too during the cooking process as it really gives it a rich nuttiness that I love. Nothing is wasted, we add the liquid from the kidney beans too. Save your onion skin to make your own broth in future, I put it in zip lock bags in the freezer until I'm ready to use it.
I use macaroni pasta most often in pasta and kidney beans soup or sometimes pasta shells (try this Mexican shell soup too if you have any) but you can use any shape you have in the store cupboard!
Pasta e Fagioli (or Pasta Fazool) is a delicious cold-weather soup to eat in winter as it's so cosy and warms you up.
Looking for other soups? Try these...
I use good quality elbow pasta for this recipe but conchigliette (small shells) will work well too.
We cook our pasta separately rather than all in one pot, as it tends to overcook this way in my opinion and I am not a fan of floppy engorged pasta.
You can either use bacon or pancetta for this pasta e fagioli recipe.
You can use white onion or red onion, or even shallot.
Remember to remove any green shoot from the centre, this can burn and give a bitter taste.
- Kidney beans
Whether you cook them fresh or buy a can, don't drain your kidney beans as we use the liquid too!
- Canned tomatoes
Whole canned tomatoes will always be the best quality, followed by chopped, followed by pureed. So it's better to buy the whole canned tomatoes and then chop or blend them yourself with an immersion blender in the tin.
- Chicken broth
Use homemade or store-bought both but if store-bought, get the low sodium version. I always prefer to season my own food as that way you control the quality of the salt. I always use Cornish sea salt from the British coast in my recipes.
- Chilli flakes
This adds a subtle warmth that is SO good in cold weather, it really heats you up from the inside out.
You can use fresh or dried, and the rule for substituting dried herbs for fresh is that you use twice the amount of fresh herbs for dried herbs.
- Parmesam cheese
I grate parmesan over the top as a garnish, but an excellent cooking tip is to keep all of your old parmesan rinds in the freezer and add them to soups and stews whilst they're cooking to add extra flavour. So, if you have an old parmesan rind, use this too whilst the soup is cooking!
- Bay leaves
Fresh parsley works best as a garnish for this dish. I get through so much parsley, it's a kitchen hero ingredient for me.
- Butter and olive oil
I like to use both butter and olive oil in this dish, but you can decide for yourself if you just want to use one.
- Salt and pepper
See the recipe card for quantities.
Dice your onion into small square pieces, crush your garlic into a paste and cut your bacon into thin strips.
In a large casserole pot or dutch oven heat the butter and cook the bacon until it's crispy, before removing it to a plate lined with kitchen paper to soak up any excess fat.
Add the onion to the pan, and cook it in the butter and bacon fat until softened and translucent.
Stir through the garlic, chilli flakes and oregano and cook for another one or two minutes. Don't let it burn.
Pour the kidney beans and their liquid into the pan and then add the tomatoes and chicken broth.
Add the bay leaves, bacon and parmesan rind (if using), season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes.
When you have ten minutes left on the clock, bring a saucepan of salted water to a rolling boil.
Cook your pasta for nine or ten minutes so it is still al dente, and then drain it and place in warm serving bowls.
Ladle the hot kidney beans soup over the top of the pasta and garnish it with freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley. Season to taste and enjoy!
Wine pairing for Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta E Fagioli works wonderfully with a medium-bodied red wine like a Chianti/Sangiovese or Barbera, or perhaps a Californian Cabernet Sauvignon. If you prefer white wine, try a Verdicchio or a Falanghina.
Substitutions and variations
Here are a few ways to adapt this pasta and kidney beans soup to suit you.
- Beans - instead of kidney beans you could use white cannellini beans.
- Spicy - you can add more or fewer chilli flakes to this pasta and kidney beans soup to adjust the heat level.
- Vegan - Just omit the bacon and butter, use vegetable stock and oil instead.
You will need a casserole pot or dutch oven, and a saucepan for the pasta. This is a very low-key recipe that requires minimal equipment!
Store any leftovers in the fridge, they'll be good for 3-4 days and taste even better in my opinion.
You can freeze any leftover soup, and then when ready to eat, just defrost it and cook the pasta separately to stir through.
Pasta and kidney beans soup, pasta e fagiloli
- 100 grams (4 oz) bacon
- 150 grams (1 cup) elbow pasta dry weight
- 5 cloves (2 cloves) garlic
- 1 onion
- 1 litre chicken broth
- 800 grams (28 oz) can tomatoes
- 800 grams (20 oz) kidney beans keep the liquid
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- ½ teaspoon (0.5 teaspoon) chilli flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 parmesan rind
- 3 tablespoon grated parmesan
- 3 tablespoon chopped parsley
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 20 grams (2 tablespoon) butter
- salt and pepper
- Dice your onion, crush your garlic and cut your bacon into strips.
- In a large casserole pot or dutch oven heat some butter and cook the bacon until it's crispy, before removing it to a plate.
- Add the onion to the bacon fat, and cook it until softened.
- Stir through the garlic, chilli flakes and oregano and cook for another one or two minutes.
- Pour in the kidney beans plus their liquid and then add the tomatoes and chicken broth.
- Add the bay leaves, bacon and parmesan rind (if using), season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer for 20 minutes.
- When you have ten minutes left on the clock, bring a saucepan of salted water to a boil.
- Cook your pasta for five or six minutes so it is still al dente, and then drain it and serve in warm bowls.
- Ladle the soup over the top of the pasta and garnish it with freshly grated parmesan and chopped parsley.