Pasta e Fagioli

Create this gloriously warming thick and beany soup - a perfect filler on a rainy day
By Nigella Lawson
Pasta e Fagioli
  • Rating:
  • Serves: 8
  • Cook Time: 1.5 hours 30 minutes
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes plus overnight soaking
  • Effort: easy



  • 500 g borlotti beans
  • 5 clove garlic, whole plus 1 Microplaned or grated
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 onions, peeled and quartered
  • 1 pinches salt, to taste
  • 1 tbsp tomatoes, concentrate
  • 13 tbsp olive oil
  • 200 g pasta, ditalini (or other small pasta tubes)

Tips and Suggestions

This is that lifesaving, thick, pasta and bean meal of soup as sung about by Dean Martin in That's Amore. It's just the thing you want to eat when the rain's battering against the window panes and just what you need to cook to make you feel that you're safe and warm, happy and occupied within.

I have to say, it's the first time I've included a popsock in a recipe. By all means bundle the rosemary and onion in a muslin cloth if it makes you feel more satisfactorily homespun, but I am just not one of those efficiently traditional domestic types that keeps cheesecloths and muslins on hand.


1. Put the borlotti beans in a large bowl and cover with cold water and let the beans soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.

2. Drain the beans and tip them into a large saucepan.

3. Using the flat side of a large knife press down on the whole garlic cloves so that their papery skins tear and begin to come away. Peel them and chuck the bruised cloves on top of the beans.

4. Now take a popsock and in it pop, appropriately enough, the sprigs of rosemary and cut-up onion. This will stop the needles (which turn bitter on boiling) from infiltrating the soup (very irritating between the teeth, too) but allow the resiny fragrance to seep through. I also find it better not to have slimy onion skins all over the place later.

5. Cover everything generously with cold water, clamp on a lid and bring to the boil. Once it's started boiling, turn down the heat and simmer for an hour.

6. Check the beans to see how cooked they are and only when they're tender, add salt to taste.

7. Chuck out the corpsed popsock with its contents. Remove a mugful of beans - or more if you want a very thick soup - and tip into a blender (my preference) or processor, along with a tablespoonful of tomato concentrate and 250ml of the bean cooking liquid and liquidise.

8. Now, add the 3 tablespoons of oil to a small saucepan and grate (I always use my fine Microplane for this) or squeeze in the sixth clove of garlic. Cook over low to medium heat until soft but not coloured.

9. Stir in the finely-chopped rosemary and cook for another scant minute then add the liquidised soup and cook for a minute or so more, then tip into the large pan of beans.

10. Bring back to the boil and add the ditalini, cooking them according to packet instructions.

11. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and serve.

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