Traditional Italian Pasta Fagioli Soup with Ditalini

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This traditional pasta fagioli soup recipe is not only delicious, but it’s super easy and simple to make. It got its name because fagioli means beans in Italian and it uses small pasta shapes in the soup – generally ditalini. The recipe below is exactly how I’ve been making this pasta-filled Italian soup for years, and the only thing I change up is the type of broth or beans I use in the soup.

Traditional Italian Pasta Fagioli Soup with Ditalini in a bowl

Truth be told, there is no one specific recipe for pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) soup. But it is important to understand some basic principles which I’ll explain, along with easy step by step instructions and helpful tips.

And don’t worry, you don’t have to use dried beans –  I always use canned beans instead. This reduces the cooking time dramatically from hours to just 45 minutes. 

Ready to enjoy a flavorful Italian soup that’s healthy too? Let’s get started!

About this Traditional Pasta Fagioli Soup Recipe

Pasta fagioli soup is a simple Italian soup that is made all throughout Italy and Italian kitchens worldwide. It was originally considered a peasant dish, often without meat. Beans and pasta were what most Italians had on hand, so with a few vegetables from the garden, pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans) was born. 

It’s basically an Italian bean soup with ditalini pasta added in. It’s important to note that making too many changes to this soup can actually cause it to no longer be a pasta fagioli soup – from a traditional sense. What you may end up with is a minestrone, or a tuscan soup which both use similar ingredients. 

The traditional way for making pasta fagioli soup, or pasta fazool as some call it, is to create your own broth. This is done as part of the soup making process by sauteing the staple vegetables in the recipe – onions, carrots and celery. Or you can use your own homemade chicken broth. 

It’s also traditional for the Italians to use white beans such as cannellini beans or similar varieties. I follow the same basic principles in my own recipe, but like many Italian households today, I use a few shortcuts to make this soup recipe easier and quicker.  

The end result is an authentic pasta fagioli soup that is full of flavor, just like the Italians make in Italy.

Equipment you’ll need

This soup recipe is very simple, all you need are the following kitchen supplies. 

Large soup pot

A good soup pot is a must-have for your soup.

Medium saucepan

For this recipe you’ll need to boil the pasta in a separate medium size pan for cooking the ditalini pasta.

Ingredients

Here are the ingredients you’ll need for making this recipe for a traditional pasta fagioli soup (with my time-saving tips). Exact measurements are found in the recipe card at the end of this post. 

ingredients for making pasta fagioli

Olive oil. I use extra virgin olive oil. 

Onions. Standard yellow onions that are diced into small pieces.

Carrots. Too many carrots and your soup will become too sweet. Dice these like your onions. 

Celery. Dice the celery stalks and the leaves on top. The leaves are full of flavor. 

Bay leaf. Bay leaf adds a nice subtle depth to the soup, but if you don’t have any don’t worry about it. 

Garlic. I roughly chop the garlic clove, instead of mincing them. Don’t use garlic powder.

Chicken broth. You can also use vegetable broth. See my note below for additional broth tips. 

​Canned tomatoes. I like to use diced tomatoes, but you can use chopped tomatoes or even fresh tomatoes.

Cannellini beans. Use canned beans. I like to rinse them to remove extra sodium, but you don’t have to. 

Parsley. I like to use fresh parsley. Dried parsley is fine if that’s what you have.

Great northern beans (optional). These are a smaller version of cannellini beans, and not required. Sometimes I like to substitute a can of these for one of the cannellini beans. This is optional.

Ditalini or other small tubular short pasta. Ditalini is most commonly used. It’s the perfect pasta size for this soup – not too big or too small,

Grated Romano cheese. If you have Romano cheese, use it. Otherwise Parmesan cheese is fine. You can read how I freeze my Parmesan and Romano cheese.

PRO TIP: When using store bought chicken broth or stock, some brands include a wide range of herbs that are not appropriate for a bean soup like this one. Look for brands that include basic stock ingredients – onions, carrots, celery, garlic and parsley. Any other herbs and ingredients will alter the flavor of the soup too much.

How to make this traditional Pasta Fagioli soup

Here are the steps for making this wonderful classic Italian soup. It’s exactly how I make it!  

Step 1. In a large pot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. 

onions in pot

Step 2. Add in the diced onions and stir so all the onions are coated with the oil. Reduce heat to medium-low and saute the onions for 5 minutes. 

chopped vegetables in pot

Step 3. Add in the chopped garlic, carrot, celery, and bay leaf. Stir and saute the vegetables, covered with a lid for about 8 minutes, or until the onions are translucent and vegetables are soft.

PRO TIP: Add 2 Tablespoons of water to help get the steaming process going. Stir occasionally making sure that no vegetables are burning.

pasta fagioli soup simmering on stove

Step 5. Once carrots and celery are soft (not crunchy), add in the can of tomatoes (and juice), beans, parsley, and broth. 

PRO TIP: Sometimes I add in 1 or 2 cups of water to help reduce the amount of sodium often found in grocery store brands.  

Step 6. Bring the soup to a boil, then reduce to a high simmer. Cover and cook for 25 to 35 minutes more. 

Step 7. While the soup is cooking, cook the ditalini pasta in a separate pot according to package instructions – usually 9 minutes. Drain and set aside with a little water to prevent pasta from forming a clump by sticking together.  You can cook the pasta al dente because it will continue to cook slightly once added to the hot soup. 

Step 8. When the soup is ready, place the pasta in individual soup bowls, and then ladle the pasta fagioli soup to fill the bowls. Top with the Romano cheese. 

PRO TIP: For an extra burst of heat in your italian pasta soup, add some red pepper flakes when serving. My father loved adding red pepper flakes to his soups and pasta recipes. 

pasta fagioli in serving bowl

Recipe Substitutions & Variations

This traditional Pasta e fagioli recipe is meant to use simple and basic ingredients without over complicating the dish.  Here are some possible substitutions and modifications you can make. 

  1. Go meatless. If you are vegetarian or simply prefer a meat-free recipe, swap the chicken broth for vegetable broth. You can also simply create your own vegetable stock by adding another onion, 1/2 carrot, and 2 more stalks of celery. This is what I do for my winter minestrone soup recipe.
    Make sure to saute the vegetables fully until they are very soft. You will need to cook the soup an additional 30 minutes, so make sure to add an extra cup or two of water to account for it cooking down. I also recommend cooking your delicious italian pasta soup partially covered with a lid. 
  2. Add meats. If you’re on the opposite spectrum and love meats, then add in some chopped sausage or beef. This really disqualifies it from being a traditional pasta fagioli and is more like a tuscan soup with pasta. But delicious nonetheless. 
  3. Mix and match beans. Although traditionally white beans are used, feel free to add in a can of red kidney beans for some color. Other beans can be cranberry beans or borlotti beans. These are not as easy to find at all grocery stores however. You can also mash some of your beans to make the soup thicker or creamier. This is what I do for my creamy kale soup recipe
  4. Tomatoes. A quick note about tomatoes. If you don’t have any fresh or canned tomatoes, feel free to add in some tomato paste. I would use 2 Tablespoons of paste dissolved in some hot water, then add it to the soup. 
  5. Use another pasta shape. I don’t know if ditalini was originally the pasta shape of choice back in the day. My personal opinion is that they used whatever pasta shape they made for the day. This soup has a long history and buying boxes and I doubt it was always ditalini in the pasta soup.
  6. Add more vegetables. Once you start adding too many vegetables it becomes a minestrone soup, especially if you omit the ditalini. Regardless, adding in some chopped or sliced zucchini, green beans, or potatoes would taste fantastic.

Soup Preparation, Storage and Reheating Tips

Here are some helpful tips so you can get the most out of your delicious pasta fagioli soup and nothing goes to waste!

Can pasta fagioli soup be made in advance? 

Yes, this is a great soup to make the day before because the flavors have even longer to mingle. You can cook the ditalini ahead of time, but I would add a drop of the soup or water to keep the pasta from sticking together. Otherwise, cook the pasta while the soup is reheating. 

How to store pasta fagioli?

Pasta fagioli can easily be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for 3 to 5 days. If you want to freeze your soup for long term storage, then place the soup in an airtight container, and label and date the contents. 

This Italian pasta soup will keep fresh in the freezer for up to 6 months, but will then begin to lose its freshness a little. I’ve kept soups in the freezer for over a year and still enjoyed them, so don’t stress about it. However, I don’t recommend freezing the pasta with it. 

How to reheat pasta fagioli soup?

To reheat pasta fagioli soup, all you need to do is place the soup (frozen or not), in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat until the soup and beans are heated through. If the soup is frozen, it will take longer to heat through the beans because of being frozen. 

In this case, expect it to take 10 to 15 minutes extra over medium heat after the soup has melted. 

What to serve with Pasta Fagioli soup?

Pasta fagioli soup is like so many other Italian soup recipes because it can be served as a first course, a side dish, or a main dish for the whole family. 

how to make garlic bread

Easy Italian garlic bread tastes great dipped in the soup.

authentic italian bread th

Not a fan of garlic bread? Try some authentic homemade Italian crusty bread.

zucchini pizza boats

Serve your Italian pasta soup with some delicious stuffed vegetable zucchini boats!

More Italian Soup Recipes You May Enjoy

If you love Italian soup recipes, check out these additional soups.

chicken pastina soup th

​Italian chicken pastina soup is an easy soup filled with chicken and tiny pasta shapes.

stracciatella soup th

Italian stracciatella alla Romana soup is an Italian egg drop recipe that is so easy you’d laugh!

homemade italian wedding soup

​Try this Italian wedding soup recipe that is filled with little hand formed meatballs.

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I hope you’ve enjoyed my recipe for traditional pasta fagioli soup, even though I do include some shortcuts to make life easier! If you have your own way of making this recipe, let me know in the comments below. I love to hear from my readers!

Traditional Italian Pasta Fagioli Soup with Ditalini in a bowl

Pasta Fagioli Soup Recipe

4.34 from 3 votes
Print Rate
Course: Soups
Servings: 4 people

Ingredients

  • 2 onions diced
  • 1 carrot chopped finely
  • 1 stalk of celery chopped finely
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 5 cloves of garlic crushed and chopped
  • 2 15 oz cans of cannellini beans rinsed and drained
  • 2 cups water
  • 3-4 cups chicken or veggie broth
  • 1 15oz can of crushed tomatoes
  • 1 1/2 cups small tubular short pasta
  • grated Romano cheese

Instructions

  • In medium size soup pot heat olive oil over medium high heat about 2-3 minutes
  • Add in onions and stir to coat. Reduce heat to medium low and cook for 2-3 minutes.
  • Add in garlic and stir. Heat about 2 minutes. Do not let it burn.
  • Add in bay leaf, carrots and celery. Stir and put cover on.
  • Reduce heat to simmer and cook for about 8 minutes.
  • Meanwhile in separate pan, bring 6 cups water to a boil and add pasta. Follow instructions on box. Drain when cooked.
  • Once carrots and celery are soft add in can of tomatoes, beans, water and broth/stock. Stir.
  • Bring to boil then reduce to simmer. Cover and cook for about 10-20 more minutes.
  • When ready to serve, combine pasta with the soup and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Notes

TIP #1: Cooking the pasta inside the soup can cause the soup to become too starchy and the pasta to become overcooked. I prefer keeping them separate until ready to serve.
TIP #2: Feel free to add in a can of red kidney beans. However, once you start adding more veggies it can easily morph into a minestrone soup. My recipe is a simple recipe but you can make it as complex as you personally like.
TIP #3: Serve with salad and Italian bread.

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2 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    My mother used this soup often, but with a few less ingredients. This reminds me of my father’s recipe, he called it “Clean out the refrigerator soup”

    Thank you

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