Pasta e fagioli, or “pasta fazool,” as my father-in-law pronounced it, was the first thing I remember being fed in Philadelphia when I met my husband’s parents. It’s a simple hearty soup with pasta and beans.
Pop made it with a ham bone and dried beans, and it took all day to cook. I short-cut it with a ham steak, canned beans, and dried spices. Pasta fazool is delicious and filling, and so easy to swap out ingredients.
If you don’t have a ham steak or bone, try diced or ground sausage. The same thing for Great Northern beans. I have used cannelini beans, garbanzos, navy beans, or kidney beans. The pasta called for is ditalini, a small tube-shaped pasta. This can be hard to find in southern grocery stores. Large elbow macaroni will do just fine.
One other note, this dish is even better the second day, so I make it in huge batches. The pasta soaks up liquid as it rests, and the next day, it is more of a macaroni dish than a soup. My kids love it; it’s our comfort food, and always reminds us of Philadelphia and Pop.
This is a big recipe; it makes about 18 cups, 310 calories each. You can half the recipe, or freeze half if you like.
- 1-1 1/2 pound ham steak, diced
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 onion, diced
- 3 carrots, diced
- 3 celery stalks, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled and diced
- 2 quarts chicken broth
- 2 tablespoons chopped Italian parsley
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- 2 tablespoons chopped basil
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1/2 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 15.5-ounce cans Great Northern beans
- 1/2 pound ditalini pasta
- 28-ounce can peeled tomatoes (or tomato sauce)
- 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese for topping
- Heat olive oil in a very large heavy-bottomed pot. Add diced ham and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are translucent.
- Add carrots, celery, and garlic. Stir for a minute, then add add chicken broth and seasonings. If you don’t have fresh basil or parsley, dried spices or Italian seasoning works just fine.
- Simmer for about 10 minutes, until vegetables are softened. Add pasta and simmer for another 8-10 minutes.
- Add beans and tomatoes. I don’t chop the tomatoes, I just give them a squeeze with my hands and drop them in. Don’t forget to add the juice in the can.
- Stir until heated through. Serve in soup bowls with a spoonful of Parmesan on top. If you are patient enough to let it sit for 20-30 minutes, it will thicken up. I like it that way.