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X Italian Pasta Dishes
Pasta e fagiole
Pasta e Fagiole (Pasta with Beans, Version V)
Originated from: Casacalenda, Molise, Italy
Occasion: Any time
Contributed by: Mary Melfi (her mother's recipe)

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1 package of store-bought tubetti (450 g)

For cooking pasta

A big pot of water
1/2 tablespoon salt

For sauce:

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, whole [traditional method] or chopped
1 cup dried white cannelloni beans or white pea beans (or 1 can of cooked beans, 19 oz)
2 cups of water in which beans were soaked in
1/5 pound fresh pork belly (optional)*
2 dried sweet red peppers
salt to taste

Seasonings (optional):
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped

*Generally speaking, in pre World War II Southern Italy "paste e fagioli" was a meatless dish, but the well-to-do did add "ciccicoli," bite-sized chunks of fresh pork belly, to enhance the flavor of the dish. Fresh pork belly is often sold as panchetta (sometimes spelled, "pancetta") in Italian butcher shops -- but please note that the pancehetta used in this dish is Not the cured panchetta that is readily available and offered rolled up and ready to eat; "ciccioli" are made with "fresh" panchetta -- this meat is generally only available in Italian butcher shops in the wintertime (Apparently few Italians ask for it in the summertime, so it is rarely up for sale), what is often sold as fresh pork belly in large North American supermarkets is not good enough as it is generally pre-salted and its taste is rather despicable.


To prepare the beans:

Step 1. Place dried white beans in water and soak overnight.

Step 2. Cook soaked beans for about half an hour to an hour (the amount of time depends on the size of the beans).

Step 3. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid.

Obviously, if one is using canned beans, steps 1 and 2, are not followed.

To make the sauce:

Step 1. Peel garlic. Keep whole or chop.

Step 2. Chop the fresh pork belly into bite-size pieces.

Step 3. Crush dried sweet red peppers into bite-size pieces.

Step 4. Heat olive oil in a deep pan.

Step 5. Add chopped garlic, pork belly pieces and crushed sweet dried red peppers. Fry until most of the fat from the pork belly is rendered.

Step 6. Add the beans, with about 2 cups of liquid [water] the beans were cooked in (the amount depends on personal preference). Add salt.

To cook the pasta:

Step 7. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt.

Step 11. Cook the pasta (about 8 minutes).

Step 12. Drain the pasta.

To prepare the pasta:

Step 13. Place the drained pasta in a large bowl. Add about 1 cup of the prepared sauce to the pasta. Mix well.

Step 14. Place the tossed pasta in individual dishes. Add extra sauce on top of each dish.

Step 15. Serve warm.


Some cooks prepared "pasta e fagiole" as a stew rather than a pasta dish. Most cooks used the water from the beans to make the stew, but some also added water in which the pasta was cooked in. In pre World War II Italy water was rather scarce (Out on the farms women often had to walk for miles to get to a water hole) so when it was used in cooking, most cooks wanted to make the most of it. Very little was thrown out.... Photo: Mary Melfi.

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