This post may contain affiliate links. Please read my disclosure policy.
Italian-style vegetarian pasta and bean soup with Parmesan cheese, white cannellini beans, Tuscan kale and tomatoes. This easy recipe can be made quickly in a pressure cooker or on the stovetop.
This is super-delicious creamy pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans!) soup that’s a few steps up from the one I loved as a kid, right next to creamy homemade tomato soup.
My version makes a tasty vegetarian lunch or dinner meal that will satisfy all types of hungry appetites, carnivorous or otherwise.
Pasta fagioli is a perfect meal to pull magically out of your pantry. We always called this soup “pasta fazool” when I was growing up, but my mom definitely did not put cream or kale in it!
Adding kale to the usual pasta e fagioli soup makes for a nutritious, healthy meal. And the cream is another way to add a touch of decadence to a humble bean soup.
When it’s cold outside, this soup tastes damn good, and feels especially warming and nourishing to eat.
A traditionally family-style Italian dish, pasta e fagioli — which literally translates to pasta and beans — satisfies on many levels. It’s a world away from something you’d order at Olive Garden.
What I love about this version is the comforting combo of carbs (pasta), protein (beans) and greens (healthy stuff) all mingled in a thick, creamy, cheesy broth.
Minestrone versus pasta fagioli
Unlike a dish like minestrone soup, authentic pasta e fagioli isn’t a vegetable soup, per se. It’s traditionally made with just beans, tomatoes, broth and sometimes pork for extra flavor.
Ingredients in the soup
This dish uses:
- Canned or home-cooked cannellini beans
- Dried soup pasta: Ditalini, tiny shells, elbows.
- Parmesan cheese (plus a rind if you have one)
- Moist sun dried tomatoes
- Garlic, onion and herbs.
Making pasta e fagioli in a pressure cooker
The pasta, beans and seasonings come together deliciously — and quickly! — right on the stovetop, and even faster in a pressure cooker
If you have an Instant Pot or other electric pressure cooker you can make this recipe in minutes, leaving your hands free to make a salad to go with, or to just give you time to relax and get your bowl and spoon ready to dig in.
This is the electric pressure cooker I just bought and totally obsessed with right now.
No pressure cooker? No worries — check the recipe notes below for easy directions to make this recipe on the stovetop in about half an hour.
Using dried pasta in soup
Use your favorite small pasta shape, such as ditalini, shells or elbows. You might be skeptical about throwing uncooked dry pasta in the pot along with everything else.
I was too at first, but under high pressure or just boiling on the stove, the starchy pasta, spices and beans create a tasty, thickened liquid base for the soup.
The soup has a really lovely thick texture all on its own, so feel free to skip the optional splash of heavy cream at the end (but I suggest you go for it!!)
To make this soup have a creamy texture without using dairy: Scoop out and puree about a cup or so of the soup with a hand blender and stir back in, or blend for a few seconds right in the pot.
To round out the one-bowl-meal nature of the dish, I threw in some dark green leafy Tuscan kale for an extra boost of healthy goodness.
About Tuscan kale
Tuscan kale, which is the exact same kale variously labeled as Lacinato, Cavalo Nero and Dinosaur kale, is a dark green variety that has crinkled leaves and a rich midnight green color.
Elevate your soup with these pro tips:
- If you happen to have a parmesan rind on hand, go ahead and toss it in the pot. Parmesan rinds in soup dissolve and melt slightly, adding flavor and depth. Just fish it out and discard when finished cooking.
- While you don’t need to go all out, the texture of this pasta fagioli is extra luscious with a splash of heavy cream stirred in before serving.
- Try to use moist dry-packed sun dried tomatoes in this recipe if you can. If you only have oil-packed ones, just be sure to drain and pat them dry.
- Storing and reheating the soup: The pasta fagioli keeps in the refrigerator for 3-5 days, but it may thicken a bit in the fridge. Add a bit more water or broth when preparing leftovers. Freeze fully cooled portions of the soup in containers. Reheat on the stovetop or in the microwave with extra broth or water to loosen the texture.
Creamy Pasta Fagioli Soup with Kale
- 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup chopped onion
- 3 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1 cup (110 g) dry-packed sun dried tomatoes, chopped
- 1 cup (60 g) uncooked dried soup pasta, such as mini shells, ditalini or elbows
- 2 15-ounce cans (950 g) cannellini beans, (including their liquid)
- 2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
- ½ teaspoon crushed red chili pepper
- 5 cups (1250 ml) vegetable broth, chicken broth, or water
- Kosher salt
- 1 Parmesan cheese rind, optional
- 1 bunch Tuscan or curly kale, stemmed and chopped
- ¼ cup (60 ml) heavy cream, optional
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Heat the olive oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, stirring frequently. Stir in the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add the tomatoes, pasta, beans, thyme, red pepper and broth or water. Add 1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt. Bring to a boil, then cover and lower the heat to a simmer. Cook 15 minutes, until the pasta is al dente.
- Stir in the kale and cream if using. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with grated Parmesan.
Pressure cooker instructions
- Press the “sauté” button on an electric pressure cooker and preheat on high heat. Once the insert is hot, add the olive oil and onion. Cook, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened.
- Add the garlic, tomatoes, pasta, beans, thyme, chili, broth, the cheese rind, and 1 ½ teaspoons salt. Stir together.
- Stop the saute function. Close and secure the lid of the pressure cooker and cook on high for 7 minutes, with a quick release when it's finished.
- Stir in the kale (it will wilt) and heavy cream if using. Taste and season with more salt if you like.
- Serve in bowls, drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil and grated Parmesan cheese to taste.
Karen’s Notes and Tips
Nutrition facts are calculated by third-party software. If you have specific dietary needs, please refer to your favorite calculator.