Pasta fasool is the dialect expression used by both Italian-Americans and southern Italians to refer to a famous bean and macaroni stew from southern Italy that is popular in the Campania region and Naples in particular, as well as in other southern Italian regions. Most Italian-Americans can trace their roots to southern Italy and Sicily; this is where the great majority of their ancestors came from in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. They call this dish pasta fasool or pasta e fasul, which is nothing but pasta e fagioli, pasta and beans. It is also known in Naples by the dialect term munnezzaglia. Typically, it is not considered a stew but rather a thick soup, as they like it in Campania. White cannellini beans are usually used, but I like to use red beans too. The pasta used is always pasta mischiata, mixed pastas, such as laganelle (a flat, ½-inch-wide pasta), broken vermicelli, mezzani (macaroni), tubetti, pennette, and so forth, but usually a combination of thick and thin pastas.
Cooking MethodSauteeing, Stewing
Total Timeunder 4 hours
One Pot MealYes
OccasionCasual Dinner Party
Recipe CourseMain Course
Dietary ConsiderationHalal, Kosher, Peanut Free, Soy Free, Tree Nut Free, Vegan, Vegetarian
Taste and TextureGarlicky, Herby, Savory
Type of DishPasta
- 2½ cups (about 1 pound) dried white cannellini, red borlotti, or speckled red kidney beans, picked over and rinsed
- 8 large garlic cloves, 4 crushed and 4 finely chopped
- 6 sprigs fresh parsley
- ¼ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 celery stalk, including leaves, finely chopped
- 1 pound ripe tomatoes, cut in half, seeds squeezed out, and grated against the largest holes of a grater down to the peel
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- ½ teaspoon ground red chile
- 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- ½ cup water
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 pound mixed short pasta
Place the beans in a medium-size saucepan of lightly salted and peppered water and add the 4 crushed garlic cloves and the parsley sprigs. Bring to a boil and cook until the beans are nearly tender, about 1½ hours, replenishing the water as needed. Drain the beans, discard the parsley and garlic, and save 2 cups of the cooking water.
In a large casserole, heat ¼ cup of the olive oil over medium-high heat. Cook the soffritto of celery and chopped garlic until soft, stirring constantly so the garlic doesn’t burn, 2 to 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, red chile, black pepper, and water. Stir, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for 10 minutes. Add the drained beans and oregano and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding 1 to 2 cups of the reserved bean cooking water while the beans cook, so they are slightly “stewy” looking.
Meanwhile, bring a large pot of abundantly salted water to a boil, cook the pasta until al dente, and drain. Transfer the pasta to the beans and cook until creamy, about 5 minutes. Check the seasonings, pour on the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and serve immediately.
2002 Clifford A. Wright