Traditional Italian Pasta Fagioli
If you love rich, hearty soups, look no farther than this tasty Italian bean soup. I’m sure you’ve had it before… either your Nonna made it when you were a kid, or you got hooked on the Olive Garden pasta fagioli soup and those addictive bread sticks. This traditional Italian pasta fagioli recipe came from a local Italian restauranteur in my area. The flavors in his recipe are spot on. Chef Baba also shares his tips on an easier mirepoix recipe too. Better yet, this is one of the simplest soups to make — no bean soaking required.
Before we get into the actual soup, let’s talk about mirepoix.
Table of Contents
What Is Mirepoix?
Mirepoix is a French term referring to the flavor base of onions, carrots and celery that many recipes start with. Mirepoix is gently cooked in olive oil or butter until the vegetables are tender, but not browned. I use mirepoix in countless soups and stews, but I’ve always gone the extra mile and chopped them into a small dice.
Quick mirepoix recipe
Chef Baba let me in on his secret time saver for his mirepoix recipe… The food processor.
- Instead of perfectly diced veg, he puts it through the food processor, chopping until it’s so finely chopped as to almost be unrecognizable — thus, those flavors just melt into the soup.
- The even quicker method is to make a large batch of mirepoix and then divvy the veg up into ice cube trays.
- Fill the trays with vegetable or chicken stock and freeze them.
- Then, whenever you’re making a soup or stew, take out a few frozen mirepoix cubes and toss them into the pot.
- It adds great flavor and they cook in no time because the bits are so small.
This method is perfect for this traditional Italian pasta fagioli recipe, providing a base of flavor without being front and center.
What’s The Best Sausage For Pasta Fagioli?
For this pasta fagioli, I recommend a spicy Italian sausage. Don’t worry about it being too spicy, it’s not overly so — just providing a good, steady flavor throughout the soup. If you’ve had pasta fagioli before, it’s likely been made with spicy sausage.
How To Make Traditional Italian Pasta Fagioli Recipe
- Heat a large dutch oven over medium high heat.
- Add olive oil and when it’s shimmering and hot add the pancetta and cook until it renders some of its fat.
- Add the Italian sausage and use a fork or the back of a wooden spoon to break it apart into bite sized pieces.
- Cook the sausage until it’s browned, then add the mirepoix and cook until the vegetables are softened.
- Add the tomatoes and beans as well as their juices to the pot.
- Stir in the broth, crushed red pepper, oregano. (Make your own broth if you are wondering what to do with leftover rotisserie chicken)
- If you have a rind from a piece of genuine Parmigiano Reggiano cheese, by all means toss it into the pot. The cheese won’t melt, but it will infuse the soup with another layer of umami flavors. (Tip: at my Whole Foods, they sell just the rinds).
- Simmer the soup, covered, for about 20 minutes so the flavors meld.
- While the soup simmers, cook the orzo (or other small pasta) to al dente. Rinse it in a colander.
- To serve, spoon a bit of orzo into the bottom of a large shallow bowl and ladle several spoonfuls of soup over the pasta. (Note: if you add the pasta directly to the soup, it will act like a sponge and soak up the liquid, thus, it’s best to cook the pasta separately).
- Enjoy with a bit more parmesan cheese sprinkled over the soup.
Hearty and Delicious
This Italian bean soup is the type of warm, homey lunch or dinner that’s perfect for the changing seasons. You know, when it’s warm one day but abruptly changes to rain and cold the next. I love it with a crust of homemade bread and a good pour of red table wine… pasta fagioli is nothing fancy, just delicious home cooking.
More Bean Soup Recipes
If you love pasta fagioli, be sure to check out these other bean soup recipes from
- Leftover Turkey Bean Soup with Kale
- Hearty Tuscan White Bean, Kale Pancetta & Polenta Soup via Carmy at Carmy.com
- Smoky Black Bean Ham Soup
- Mung Bean Soup with Vegetables from Dawn at Girl Heart Food
- Red Bean and Sausage Soup
- Southwestern Kale and White Bean Soup from Dana at Killing Thyme
- Navy Bean Sausage Escarole Soup
- White Bean Tortellini Soup contributed by Monica at Nourish & Fete
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- ½ pound orzo pasta
- 1 medium onion peeled, cut into large chunks
- 2 medium carrots peeled, cut into chunks
- 2 medium stalks celery cut into large chunks
- 5 large cloves garlic minced
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 ounces pancetta finely diced
- 1 pound Italian sausage I used hot and spicy variety, remove the casings and cut into chunks
- 14 ounces diced tomatoes in their juice
- 30 ounces cannellini beans
- 3 cups chicken stock from rotisserie chicken or low-sodium broth
- ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- parmesan cheese rind optional
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons Italian parsley chopped
- parmesan cheese grated
- Italian parsley chopped
- Transfer the onion, carrots and celery to the bowl of a food processor and pulse until chopped fine. Set aside.
- In a large dutch oven heat the olive oil over medium heat and add the chopped garlic. Sweat the garlic until fragrant and translucent, but don’t brown it.
- Increase the heat to medium high and add the pancetta. Cook for one minute, stirring occasionally, then add the Italian sausage and cook, stirring occasionally until the sausage has browned.
- Add the onion, carrot, celery mixture and sauté until the vegetables are tender.
- Add the tomatoes, can of cannellini beans (including the liquid) and the chicken stock. Stir to combine. Add the oregano, bay leaves, crushed red pepper and parmesan cheese rind (if using). Stir, then cover with a tight fitting lid, bring the pot to a low simmer and cook for 20 minutes.
- While the soup is simmering, cook the orzo pasta to al dente, according to the package directions. Drain the pasta and set aside.
- Taste the soup and adjust seasonings as needed according to your tastes.
- Remove the bay leaves and parmesan rind and discard. Stir in the butter and parsley.
- Spoon about 1/2 cup of cooked orzo into a bowl. Spoon 2-3 ladles of soup over the pasta. Garnish with extra parmesan cheese and parsley. Enjoy!
Delicious! Made a double batch today with sweet and hot sausage. So good.
This soup is delicious. I follow the recipe exactly as is. Comes out amazing. The flavor is so good. Thank you!!
It looks great but too hot here to make & eat. But will save for cooler days
Delicious – can this soup be frozen minus the orzo?
Is it 29 ounces of beans? That’s two 15 oz cans?
Yes. 2 15-ounce cans.
I cooked “as is”minus the butter at the end. Mostly because I was cooking for my retired parents. I try to add less salt and fat when I can when I cook for them.
Turned out perfect! Just diced the veggies. Took a little longer to sweat them in the pot.
The delicious smell lasted till the morning. Plenty for 3 with left-overs. Used cheap sausage and ok bacon.
On my list. Eats like fancy chili.
I’m glad you and your parents liked the Pasta Fagioli! It’s a classic soup!
Simmering on my stove and smells amazing!! Didn’t have pancetta so went with a little extra olive oil. I am omitting the orzo and serving with crusty bread.
Hope you enjoy it, Shellie!
Silly question but can you omit the sausage from the recipe ? I do not enjoy sausage but I do love this soup ! Can’t wait to try the recipe !
Sure. You can omit the sausage, but keep in mind, that gives this soup much of its flavor. If you do omit it, I’d recommend blending some a teaspoon of fennel seed, half teaspoon of black peppercorns, 1 teaspoon oregano, 1/8 teaspoon of allspice and half a teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes in a spice grinder and blend them to a powder. Add that to the pot when you sauté the vegetables.
I didn’t have Cannellini beans on hand but I did have dry small white beans and white navy beans so I soaked them overnight and used them. I also didn’t have pancetta so substituted bacon. It is currently simmering on the stove. I noticed at the end of the ingredient list there is 2 T. of butter. Is that used to spread on some thick crusty bread?
The butter gets swirled in at the end of cooking. Adds just a skosh more richness. You can omit if you want. I think your substitutions will work great!
I haven’t had this soup in ages! Need to make this very soon.
This is one of my favorite soups! I love how you used a food chopper to get the veggies in a smaller form- brilliant! Can’t wait to try this!
Oh how delicious! And I can’t believe it but I don’t think I’ve ever had this soup before. Looks so hearty and healthy. I’m in!
This is such a great, traditional Italian classic! So hearty, flavorful and YUMMY!
Thanks for this amazing soup option. I would love it for Dinner.