Pasta e fagioli (cannellini bean soup with pasta)

This soup, adapted from a recipe in Italian Cooking Magazine, can easily be made into a delicious vegetarian dish. Simply substitute water or vegetable stock for the beef or chicken stock and replace the pancetta with diced carrots and celery. You can enjoy Pasta e Fagioli as a first course or as a meal with hearty, country-style whole-grain bread.

Servings: 6

Ingredients

  • 3 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed, or 1 cup dry beans soaked overnight and boiled for 60 to 90 minutes
  • 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 4 slices pancetta, 1/8-inch thick, julienned (vegetarian option: 3 carrots, peeled and chopped and 3 stalks of celery, chopped)
  • 1 teaspoon minced oregano, plus extra for garnish
  • 1 teaspoon minced parsley
  • 1 teaspoon minced rosemary, leaves only
  • 4 cups beef, chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1/2 cup canned, crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 teaspoon hot red-pepper flakes
  • 1/2 pound short pasta (short rigatoni, ditalini or conchiglie; add 1/4 pound first, then more if needed. For best nutrition, use whole-wheat or whole-grain pasta)

Directions

  1. Drain one can of beans, put in a bowl, and set aside. Or set aside 1/3 of the beans that you’ve prepared from dry. (If using dried beans, allow an extra day of preparation for soaking and cooking beans.)
  2. Place the contents of the other 2 cans of beans (drained and rinsed) in the bowl of a food processor and puree until smooth. Add about 1/4 cup of water through the feed tube while processing to achieve a smooth consistency. Transfer the pureed beans to the bowl of reserved whole beans you set aside at the beginning and mix together. Set aside the mixed bean bowl.
  3. In a large soup pot, heat 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add diced onion, and sauté on medium heat until golden. This should take about 5 minutes. [Meat option: Add the garlic, pancetta, parsley, rosemary and oregano. Cook for an additional minute. Vegetarian option: Add the carrots and celery, and cook for 4 minutes. Then add the garlic, parsley, rosemary, and oregano. Cook for an additional minute]. Remove pot from heat and allow to cool slightly before adding to food processor. Process sautéed ingredients until smooth.
  4. Return the sautéed, pureed ingredients to the pot, along with the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the bean mixture, and 4 cups of stock. Bring to a boil. Then add the tomatoes, red-pepper flakes and pasta. Reduce heat, and simmer until the pasta is al dente, adding some water if the soup becomes too thick.
  5. Serve immediately, sprinkled with some chopped oregano and drizzled with extra virgin olive oil.

Note: Make sure you use high-quality pasta that will stay al dente in the hot soup. You’ll want to serve your pasta e fagioli immediately since the pasta continues to absorb liquid even after you remove it from the heat. If you anticipate having leftovers, don’t cook the pasta in the whole pot of soup. Instead, heat the amount of soup you plan to serve in a separate pot, and add the pasta to this portion. This way, the pasta won’t get soggy in the leftovers. Using whole wheat pasta will increase the fiber and protein content, which will stabilize blood sugar levels and make a more nutritious meal.

Nutrition Information (per serving)

  • Calories: 170
  • Total fat: 9 g
  • Saturated fat: 2 g
  • Sodium: 630 mg
  • Total carbohydrates: 19 g
  • Fiber: 5 g
  • Sugars: 5 g
  • Protein: 4 g