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Pasta e fagioli - borlotti bean soup

I love this soup. It is a hearty and warming Italian classic which is popular in Rome. In the

original recipe the soffritto, the slow-cooked base which gives the soup its deep flavour,

includes a cut of cured pork belly called pancetta. Roman Jews leave out the bacon and,

personally, I like to add rosemary to it. A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil gives it a tasty final touch.

You can make pasta e ceci (pasta soup with chickpeas) by following almost exactly the same

method as below, and using the same weight of chickpeas as beans, just leaving out the tomato.

Photo: Barbara Toselli

PREP: 10 minutes

COOKING: 50 minutes



300g dried borlotti beans soaked overnight and cooked or 2 cans of borlotti beans 1 onion, finely chopped 1 carrot, finely chopped

1 celery stalk, finely chopped 2 garlic cloves, crushed Dried chilli, a pinch 2-3 stalks fresh rosemary 200g passata 1.2l boiling water 1 tsp rock salt 100g small pasta shapes 7-8 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, plus a drizzle when serving


  • If you are using dried beans, soak them in cold water overnight, or for at least 8 hours. Drain, place in a large saucepan filled with fresh cold water and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and simmer for 1½–2 hours until fully cooked. Drain and set aside, covered, until ready to use.

  • Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a low heat, then add the onion, celery and carrot. Cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until softened but not browned, then add the garlic, chilli, rosemary (leaves and stalks) and a pinch each of salt and pepper. Cook the soffritto for 5–7 minutes, then add the passata.

  • Stir well and cook for a further 5 minutes, add the beans, stir and cook for a few minutes, then add the boiling water and stir again. Leave to cook, partially covered, for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  • After this time, remove and discard the rosemary sprigs and add the coarse or kosher salt. Spoon out half the soup into a small, deep heatproof bowl or jug (making sure you have a good mix of beans and liquid) and blend with a stick blender to create a smooth ‘cream’. Add this back into the unblended mixture and stir to mix the different consistencies together. Cook for a final 10–15 minutes, taste and add more seasoning if needed.

  • If you don’t want to add pasta, you can serve the soup at this stage, with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil on each portion. However, to follow the Italian version, add the pasta to the boiling soup and cook, stirring occasionally, for 4–5 minutes longer than instructed on the packet. (Because the soup is chunky, the pasta absorbs liquid more slowly than in plain salted water.) The final consistency should be quite thick, with some beans and pasta still whole. If you are not planning to eat all the soup immediately, cook only as much pasta and soup as you need. Cook new pasta in the remaining soup when you next serve it.

From 'Jewish Flavours of Italy: A Family Cookbook' published by Green Bean Books 2022


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