Pasta e fagioli, pasta and beans, is an example of an Italian dish that uses basic, inexpensive ingredients to great effect. It’s a thick soup/stew that’s pure comfort.
Everyone has their own way of making it and this is a good starting point, but play around with it according to what you have to hand. Try chickpeas, cannellini or borlotti instead or, better yet, use beans that you’ve cooked yourself. Add a little pancetta to the soffritto or put a Parmesan rind in as it simmers. One thing not to change though – the final drizzle of your very best extra virgin olive oil. Vegan too, if you hold the cheese.
Photography & styling: Olivia Cavalli Williamson
Time: 55 minutes + 20 minutes to sit
Season: Year Round
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 onion, diced finely
1 carrot, diced finely
1 stick of celery, diced finely
2 sprigs rosemary
850ml stock, vegetable or meat
2 cans borlotti beans (approx. 470g drained weight)
3 tbsp tomato purée
200g small dried pasta e.g. dittalini or elbow maccheroni or fresh pasta e.g. maltagliati (see cook’s notes below)
Parmesan, to serve (optional)
Heat the oil in a pan over a medium flame. Add the onion, carrot and celery, along with a good pinch of salt, and fry gently for 20 minutes or so, until soft and translucent.
Strip the rosemary from its stalks and chop the leaves finely, add these to the pan and fry for another few minutes. Pour in the stock and leave to simmer.
Meanwhile, drain the beans, reserving the liquid from the cans. Put the bean liquid (approx. 150ml) into a blender with roughly half of the beans. Use a ladle to transfer about a third of the stock mixture from the pan to the blender too. Blend until smooth then pour this back into the pan with the rest of the stock.
Add the remaining beans and the tomato puree, stir and leave to simmer for a further 20 minutes. Taste and season well – you’ll be cooking the pasta directly into the soup so it must taste good.
Bring to a moderate boil then add the pasta. Cook for around 8 minutes (less for fresh pasta), until al dente, stirring every so often to make sure it isn’t sticking – add a splash of water if it looks like it needs it. If you’re using fresh pasta, reduce the cooking time accordingly. Remove from the heat and leave to sit for around 20 minutes or so to let the flavours mingle.
Serve drizzled with your best olive oil and some Parmesan.
— cook’s notes
If you enjoy making fresh pasta, get into the habit of saving the offcuts and scraps for dishes like this. Maltagliati meaning ‘badly cut’ are lovely here and make use of what might otherwise go in the bin.