I have so many great memories of going to Olive Garden after church with my girl friends in middle and high school. Sometimes one of our church sponsors would join us, too. We’d eat ridiculous amounts of breadsticks with Alfredo sauce [wish I could still do that w/o gaining 438 lbs.]. We’d laugh way too loudly. We’d eat some of their yummy-in-the-tummy Paste e Fagioli soup. Well, sorry, Olive Garden, but I’ve graduated to a better version. This one.
The great part about this soup is you can freeze it if you’re not ready to eat the whole batch. I’d just recommend not cooking the pasta (or at least just keep it separated) until you’re ready to eat. You can thaw the soup overnight in the fridge, boil some pasta, and voila – dinner is served.
Any “16 Bean Soup” dry mix will do just fine for this recipe. I couldn’t find the Goya one Ina mentions in hers, but this one was perfect. Just keep the seasoning packet for another day if you want. I chunked mine because the last thing I need is another bag of spices in my pantry.
Pancetta is delish, y’all! It’s a great way to add some pork flavor + salt to you dish. I only used half of what the original recipe called for, and it was still yummy. Pancetta is one of the pricer ingredients on this list, so I thought leaving a little out wouldn’t hurt. You can find it near the deli at your grocery store.
Like I said before, I didn’t want to add the pasta and freeze it with the soup. Nobody likes mushy pasta. Unless you do, then you just do you. I decided to cook a small portion and refrigerate it separately until it was time to eat. I found this box of “small shells” at HEB. They did the job just fine, but any small little pasta would do.
Adding the Parm and basil throws this soup over-the-top… I’m thinking I may have some for breakfast. And lunch. And maybe dinner, too. It’s that good.
One thing I did differently was to use an immersion blender to mash up some of the beans + tomatoes. You can definitely use a regular blender if you don’t have an immersion one, but I’d recommend investing in one of these guys at some point. Less to clean and way easier than pouring hot soup into a blender w/o burning yourself.
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Pasta E Fagioli
For the soup
1 1-lb. bag 16 Bean Soup Mix
2 tbs. EVOO
3 oz. pancetta, diced
1 large yellow onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
1 28-oz. can whole tomatoes (San Marzano work best)
1 cup dry red wine
4 cups unsalted chicken stock
Kosher salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Small pasta shells
Basil leaves, julienned
Freshly grated Parmesan
To make the soup
The night before you make the soup, soak the beans (discard the seasoning packet) in a large plastic or glass bowl in cold water. Make sure to leave about 1 1/2” of extra water above the beans because they will soak up the water. Cover with a cloth and leave on your counter overnight.
The next morning, drain and rinse the beans. Add them to a large pot filled with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 1 1/2 hours or until the beans are tender. It’s okay if the beans lose their skin during this process. Occasionally skim off any foam that floats to the top.
About 20 minutes before the beans are finished, heat the oil in a large Dutch oven (big enough for all the soup eventually) over medium-high heat. Sauté pancetta and onion for about 15 minutes, or until both are browned. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes; sauté 1 minute. Carefully crush the tomatoes by hand into the pot and add their juices. Add the red wine, chicken stock, and (to start – you can add more later) 1 tbs. Kosher salt and 1 tsp. black pepper. Stir to combine, lower the heat to medium-low, and allow to simmer for about 10 minutes.
Drain the beans and add them to the soup. Stir to combine and continue to simmer for 15 minutes. Using an immersion blender* blend until soup is your desired consistency. Taste and adjust salt and pepper as needed.
Bring a pot of water to a boil, and add a heaping tablespoon of Kosher salt. Boil the pasta (about a half a handful per person) until al dente (usually about 8 minutes). Drain pasta. (You can also boil pasta ahead, store in airtight container in fridge, then warm with soup). Ladle the soup into bowls, top with pasta, then basil, then Parmesan.
*Or carefully ladle about 1/3 of the soup into a blender. Leave the top off the blender, cover with a dish towel, and blend until smooth. Add mixture back to pot.