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.
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 and Quicker 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.
- 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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- 1/2 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
- 1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes in their juice
- 29 ounce can cannellini beans
- 3 cups low sodium chicken broth or stock
- 1/2 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!