Pressure Cooker Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli, AKA Pasta Fazool)
Now that it’s winter, everyone wants soup.
My sister-in-law wanted to know why I didn’t have more soup recipes on my blog.
My wife asked for more soup in our weekly meal plans.
And Frank, my barber, was rhapsodizing about his mom’s old style Italian-American cooking. When I asked him for an example, he started with mom’s pasta and bean soup.
Pasta and bean soup? (Or Pasta Fazool, as Frank says it?) I can do that.
Pasta e Fagioli, pasta and bean soup, is simple. Cook some white beans. Use the thick, creamy bean cooking liquid to cook pasta. Serve them together. Easy, right?
I think I can improve on that. (No offense to Frank’s mom.) I pressure cook the beans, making this a weeknight meal. I brine the beans while I soak them, to season them all the way through. I add a bunch of aromatics to the pot, including a fistful of herb stems, a Parmesan rind, and a whole head of garlic.
*Yes, toss the whole head of garlic in there, skin and all. We’ll pull it out after it gives up its flavor to the beans. Make sure to trim off any roots, though. They hold on to dirt, and dirt is not an aromatic.
Finally, I cook a half pound of small pasta in the bean liquid. It soaks up all the flavors and turns this into a thick soup, one that borders on a stew. Still simple, still delicious.
*No pressure cooker? No worries. See the Variations section for cooking instructions using a standard dutch oven.
Recipe: Pressure Cooker Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli, AKA Pasta Fazool)
Inspired by: Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal
- 6 quart or larger Pressure Cooker (I used my Cuisinart Electric Pressure Cooker)
- 1 pound dried great northern or cannellini beans, sorted and rinsed
- 3 quarts water
- 6 tablespoons Kosher salt (or 3 tablespoons table salt)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1 large onion, cut into 1/2 inch dice
- 1 stalk celery, cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 2 medium carrots, peeled, halved, and cut into 1/2 inch slices
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 8 cups water
- 1 (15 ounce) can diced tomatoes with juices
- 1 whole head of garlic, roots trimmed off (they hide dirt)
- Stems from 1/2 bunch of parsley (leaves saved for accompaniments)
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 Parmesan rind (optional)
- 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
- 8 ounces small dried pasta (I used ditalini, but any small pasta will do)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons fresh ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- Grated Parmesan cheese
- Minced fresh parsley leaves
- Red Pepper Flakes
1. Sort, rinse, and brine the beans:
At least 8 hours before cooking, sort the great northern beans, removing broken beans, stones, or dirt clods. Rinse the beans, put them in a large container, cover with 6 tablespoons Kosher salt and 3 quarts water, and stir to dissolve the salt. Let the beans soak for at least 8 hours, or overnight.
2. Saute the aromatics:
Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker pot over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the onion, celery, carrots, red pepper flakes, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Saute until the onions are softened and starting to brown, about 8 minutes.
3. Pressure cook the beans:
Rinse the great northern beans, drain, and add to the pressure cooker, along with the water and canned tomatoes. Tie the parsley stems and rosemary sprig into a bundle, and float on top of the liquid in the cooker, along with the Parmesan rind and the head of garlic. Lock the lid on the pressure cooker, increase the heat to high, and bring the cooker up to high pressure. (Read the fine pressure cooker manual for how this works with your particular cooker). Reduce the heat to maintain the pressure, and cook at high pressure for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the pressure release naturally, about another 15 minutes. Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you – even when it’s not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot.
*Optionally, cook under pressure for 20 minutes, then quick release the pressure.
4. Cook the pasta:
Fish out the herb bundle, head of garlic, and Parmesan rind, and discard. Turn the heat to high under the cooker and bring the pot back to a simmer. Stir in the 1 tablespoon Kosher salt and the pasta. Simmer until the pasta is tender, about 9 minutes. (Note – do not lock the lid again – we aren’t cooking the pasta under pressure.) Stir in the black pepper and balsamic vinegar, taste, and add more salt, pepper, and vinegar as needed.
Ladle the soup into bowls, sprinkle the accompaniments on top, and serve.
*Vegan beans: Skip the Parmesan rind and grated Parmesan. Substitute a couple of dried porcini mushrooms for the rind, and drizzle the soup with olive oil.
*Carnivore beans: Add some diced pancetta with the onions, and cook until browned. Or, brown the pancetta separately and use it as a garnish. Even better, if you have a ham bone, toss it in the pot with the beans. When the beans are done cooking, remove the bone, strip off any ham that was left, shred it, and stir it into the beans.
*No time to soak: Sort and rinse the beans, skip the brining/soaking step, and pressure cook the beans for 45 minutes on high pressure with a natural pressure release. Increase the amount of salt in the “pressure cook beans” step to 2 tablespoons of Kosher salt.
*No pressure cooker? No problem: follow the directions, replacing the pressure cooker pot with a large pot or dutch oven. In the “cook the cannellini beans” step, add 10 cups of water instead of 8 cups, bring the pot to a boil, reduce heat to a simmer, and partially cover. Simmer until the beans are creamy, about 2 hours. Continue with the rest of the recipe as written.
*Soup, salad and bread sticks is probably too “Olive Garden”. I love it anyhow. Serve this with a green salad and bread sticks.
*If you have an 8 quart or larger pressure cooker, you can double the recipe. Frozen soup makes a great lunch. (After it has been reheated, of course. A block of frozen soup isn’t that appetizing.)
*At first, the kids were horrified. “Pasta and beans? Together in a soup? All touching each other? It’s too many things. They should be separate!”
Somehow, they got past that fear and tasted the pasta. (I think showing them the cute little ditalini tubes helped.) Once they tasted it, they tried a bean, and then a little of the broth. The next thing I knew, I was ladling out second helpings.
What do you think? Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
Tamar Adler, An Everlasting Meal
Lorna Sass, Pressure Perfect
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