A satisfying vegetable soup with chickpeas, pasta and rosemary that’s delicious and easy to make.
My mother would often make pasta fagioli on meat-free Fridays, and it’s always been a favorite. It’s a classic Italian family-style soup you can prepare as the centerpiece of a simple meal, any day of the week.
Pasta fagioli (pronounced fah-jolie) is a hearty Italian peasant soup made with beans and pasta, seasoned with tomatoes, aromatic herbs, cheese and sometimes bits of ham or pork.
My recipe is a little different from the soup my mom made. She was focused on speed and economy, and used a short list of ingredients: canned Progresso cannellini beans or chickpeas, dried oregano, canned tomato sauce and water, along with the short pasta tubes called ditalini.
Compared to the heartier, vegetable-packed soups I prefer now, her soup’s texture turned out a bit thin and watery. But of course, I loved it as a kid.
I jazzed up my chickpea pasta soup with chunks of carrot, fresh red chili pepper and a small piece of rind from Parmesan cheese. The rind melts into the soup as it simmers, adding another layer of savory flavor.
You can use canned chickpeas (or cannellini) beans to make this soup, but try cooking chickpeas from scratch and see what you think.
I believe it’s worth the extra step for a couple reasons — chickpeas cooked from scratch have a deeper, earthier flavor than canned PLUS the chickpea cooking water doubles as a tasty broth for the soup.
chickpea and pasta soup with parmesan (pasta e fagioli)
Yield 4 - 6 servings
To prepare dried chickpeas for this soup, soak one pound chickpeas in cold water 4 hours or overnight.
Drain, place in a pot and cover with water to cover by at least 3 inches. Add 1 teaspoon salt, a clove of garlic and a bay leaf. Bring to a boil. Skim off any foam that rises to the surface, then cook until the chickpeas are tender, which could take 1 - 2 hours. Reserve the cooking liquid to use as a broth for the soup.
Cook the chickpeas up a few days ahead, if you want, and store in the refrigerator covered with the cooking liquid.
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 large onion, very finely chopped
- 2 carrots, sliced into thin coins
- Kosher salt
- 3 garlic cloves, smashed, peeled and chopped
- 1 fresh red chili pepper (such as Fresno), finely chopped; or 1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red chili
- 1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
- 1 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
- 5 cups cooked chickpeas with 4 cups reserved cooking water *(see how to cook above) or 4 15-ounce cans, drained
- 1 small Parmesan rind
- 8 ounces dried soup pasta, such as ditalini, acini de pepe or orzo
- Handful of fresh basil leaves for serving (optional)
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
- Put the oil, onion and carrots in a large heavy pot with a pinch of salt. Turn the heat to medium and cook until the vegetables are softened, stirring occasionally.
- Stir the garlic, chili and rosemary into the pan and cook about 1 minute until fragrant. Add 1 1/2 teaspoons salt plus the remaining ingredients except for the pasta, basil and grated cheese (if using canned chickpeas, add 4 cups water or vegetable broth).
- Partially cover the pot and simmer gently for 30 minutes. Taste for seasoning, and add more salt, chili or freshly ground pepper to taste.
- Remove the Parmesan rind and stir the cooked pasta into the soup. Tear the basil into pieces and add to the pot. Serve in bowls topped with grated cheese.