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Pasta e fagioli

This Italian peasant soup with many variations around the Mediterranean is nourishing, delicious, and inexpensive. For optimal cost saving, use the dried beans and soak them overnight.



  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 leeks, white part only, sliced
  • 1 oz. pancetta or bacon
  • 3 small cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Several sprigs fresh thyme and rosemary
  • 2 stalks celery, sliced
  • 2 medium carrots, cut in half lengthwise and sliced
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dried navy beans
  • 8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
  • 3/4 cup small shell pasta (good quality)
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper, to taste


  1. In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. 
  2. Add the onion and leeks.  Sweat for three to four minutes or until soft. 
  3. Add the pancetta, garlic, bay leaves, thyme, carrots, and celery, herbs and cook for a further three minutes or until golden, stirring frequently. 
  4. Add the tomato paste, the stock, and soaked beans, if not using canned, and bring to a boil.  Cover and reduce to low heat.  Simmer until beans are tender, but not falling apart, about 20 to 25 minutes. 
  5. Add the pasta shells and cracked black pepper and salt.  Cover again and increase heat to medium-high.  Cook for a further seven to nine minutes or until pasta is tender. Remove from heat. Remove parmigiana rind and bay leaves and discard. Enjoy! 

TIP: If using canned beans, drain and add them along with the pasta.  Check the mise en place section for the quick soak method for beans. 

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