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RECIPE: Pasta e Fagioli Soup

If you’ve watched enough “Abbott & Costello” reruns, you’ll hear Lou Costello wanting a dish of “pasta fazool.” That’s Neapolitan Italian dialect for pasta e fagioli, correctly pronounced pasta ay fah-JOE-lee.

Pasta e fagioli, pasta with beans (typically cannellini beans), is a popular Italian peasant dish.

Some Americans call it bean and macaroni soup, but “pasta fazool” seems to have captured the public’s imagination:

  • “Pastafazoola,” a 1927 hit song, beckons “Don’t be a fool, eat pasta fazool.” The catchphrase became that era’s version of “Where’s the beef?” Here are the song’s writers, Van and Schenk, performing it.
  • Dean Martin’s 1952 hit song “That’s Amore,” advises: “When the stars make you drool, just-a like pasta fazool, that’s amore” (watch this video of his performance).

    This version of pasta e fagioli is made with conchigliette—baby shells—instead of the conventional tubetti (see photo below).


    How about some pasta fazool for National Soup Month (January)? Here’s an easy recipe for Pasta e Fagioli from Patsy’s restaurant in New York City.


    Tubetti pasta: “little tubes” used in soup.
    Photo courtesy



    Ingredients For 6 Servings

  • 1/2 pound (2 cups) tubetti pasta, elbow macaroni or other soup pasta, cooked to package directions
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 cup diced onions
  • 2 cups chicken stock
  • 1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
  • 3 cups (24 ounces) marinara sauce
  • Garnish: fresh basil chiffonade

    1. HEAT olive oil in a deep skillet and sauté the onions until lightly browned.

    2. ADD stock, beans and marinara sauce; bring to a boil. Add the cooked pasta.

    3. REDUCE heat and simmer for 1 minute. Add salt and pepper to taste.


    Italians have long made very small cuts of pasta called soup pasta, or pastini (“little pasta”). Pasta in brodo—soup in broth—is a popular dish. Types of soup pasta include, among others:

  • Acini di pepe (peperini), shaped like peppercorns
  • Alphabets (alfabeto)
  • Anelletti, small rings
  • Conchigliette, baby shells
  • Ditali/ditalini, small tubes and even tinier tubes
  • Farfalline, small bow ties (tripolini are a small bows with a rounder shape)
  • Grattoni, tiny diamonds
  • Orzo (rosamarina), pasta shaped like grains of barley
  • Risi (risoni, pasta a riso), rice shaped pasta
  • Seme di melone, melon seed shaped pasta
  • Stelle (stellette, stellini), star shaped pasta
  • Stortini, tiny elbow macaroni
  • Tubetti, small tubes
    Each region of Italy made its own shapes before the days of mass communication. Thus, there are very similar shapes with different names (for example, orzo, risi and seme di melone).

    Related Food Videos: For more food videos, check out The Nibble's Food Video Collection.

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