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Pasta con i fagioli

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Homemade wholewheat spaghetti with a delicious beans ragu for a typical Tuscan peasant dish.

You won't draw many people at a party if you write beans pasta on the menu. But Pasta con i fagioli, a humble peasant dish from Tuscany, could be the most refined and satisfying pasta you'll ever make.

Pasta con i fagioli
A hearty dinner for 6
500gr dry beans or 1kg fresh beans or 2 cans of beans (no sauce)
1 large onion
1-3 garlic cloves
2 large carrots
1 stick of celery
1 stick of cinammon
1 bay leaf
2 cloves
1 dry chili
1 bunch parsley
1 branch fresh rosemary
1 400gr (28oz) can of chopped tomatoes
1 parmesan rind or 100gr/3oz piece of parmesan
1 glass red wine
More parmesan to grate when serving
A couple tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Bigolis or fat spaghettis for 6, about 1200gr (2.5lbs) dry weight

Please consider that there are many ways Italians eat pasta with beans, many of which are soups. My guests being of the vegetarian persuasion, I omitted much needed bits of porky fat and I'd have much enjoyed some pancetta, guanciale or prosciutto in the ragł.

You could prepare this with canned beans, but it's more fun with fresh beans, in season, or plain dry beans. Cover then with a generous amount of water.

The dry beans' skins will start to shrivel, then slowly, as they suck up all available water, the beans will bloat until their size has doubled. You may have to add some more water.

The next day, the beans have turned beige but the water has become yellow with what the Ancients called the yellow bile, the acquae fartorum. Many a cook of centuries past has lost his life after forgetting to discard this evil liquid, some in a kitchen fire as their bloated stomach released a cloud that exploded as soon as it met an open flame; others in their sleep, as the putrid vapours crept out of their exhausted bodies and poisoned all in the house. Yet others were spared thanks to an open window, only to be marked as stinking pariah and cast out of society in those houses they called domus peditum.

So my friend, if you want to continue reading FXcuisine.com for many years, discard this water and rinse the soaked beans.

The beans have tripled in volume, a sure sign of a recipe from la cucina povera.

Finely dice garlic and onions and fry in a little olive oil. Here I used a terracotta pot because it looks fancy but terracotta really sucks when it comes to exchanging heat. You'll have quicker results with a cast iron pot.

Peel and dice the carrots and celery and add to the onions and garlic when they are soft. Add the cinammon stick. I admit I forgot the celery that night.

Fry until soft, then add the cloves and bay leaf. If you are using pork fat, you can add it at this moment finely diced, about 100gr (3 oz) of guanciale would work great. But my vegetarians guests were complaining about candies that contain gelatin of animal origin, how disgusting, etc... so I decided not to hurt their feelings and abstained from adding any animal fat.

Pour the wine and scrape to dissolve any brown bits that might have stuck.

Add the tomatoes...

... the beans into the sauce ...

... then the parmesan rind and the rosemary. Normally I use a whole Parmesan piece, not only the rind, but in the morning the lady at the Italian food stall at the farmers' market was about to throw away these rinds.

If you have to add any water to prevent the sauce from drying up and sticking, try to use water with low hardness (filtered to remove dissolved minerals) because research indicates that beans cook faster and become softer in soft water. How long should you let the beans ragł simmer? It all depends on your beans. If you are using canned beans, 30 minutes might be all you need. But with hard-core dried beans like I did here, after 2 hours they might still be a bit tough. My advice is to cook this in advance, possibly the day before, so that you have all the time needed to make them tender. Reheating improves the taste somewhat, so no worry.

Bigolis are also made in Tuscany under various local names and using regular wholewheat flour. Here I mixed half wholewheat flour with the same quantity of durum semolina, which gives more bite. Then one egg per guest, a tablespoon of oil and knead until the dough is as hard as cement. Bigolis stick unless you have a super dry dough.

Practical joke time. Guys, I just realized we ran out of pasta, I am so sorry but really don't know what you'll be eating tonight, I tell them. My friends look confused and a bit anguished, it's quite late. Then I go But maybe you could do me a favor ... and I show them the bigolaro. Each guest in turn sits on the little bench as I feed the bigolaro with the brown dough. They start turning and the bigolaro starts whining and hissing, soon joined by the bigolarist suffering from muscular exhaustion while everybody laughs.

I instruct another guest to take a little flour in his hand and gently rub the spaghettis as they come out so they won't stick to each other.

Finally, we ran out of dough and my friend cuts the 28 bigolis with one decisive move (she's a surgeon!).

I shake the bigolis to remove any excess flour, then drop them in a huge pot of salted boiling water.

They cook for about 90 seconds, then I remove them to a large dish and cover them with the beans ragł. What a divine smell!

A little parsley, a bowl of grated Parmesan and we tuck in.



  • #1
  • Comment by Cat
Thank you for this veggie version. I love the blog but often have trouble adapting the recipes for my preferred diet.

I was dead chuffed to read the Hot Chocolate too, same reason!
  • #2
  • Comment by Ben
hi FX, what beans are used here?
Yummy, Yummy. Thks for sharing the recipe.
Hey, for how long do you cook the beans? :)
  • #5
  • Answered by fx
Picsel, some beans will need only 30 minutes, while others are still tough after 3 hours. Cook the beans until soft, that's all I can say!
  • #6
  • Answered by fx
Ben, these were fagioli ruviotti, or phaseolus vulgaris.
  • #7
  • Answered by fx
Cat, I'm glad finally you found some articles here that you can transform into a proper dish!
Thanks, FX! That is why I was asking, everytime I boil beans they get soft after a different amount of time. i thought maybe i was doing something wrong :) Ijust put mine in water, i'll give your recipe a try tomorrow ;)
  • #9
  • Answered by fx
Picsel, you need to use soft water as it makes for much tenderer beans. You can definitely add a piece of bacon or pancetta or ham to this ragł!
Oh, too bad my girlfriend is a vegetarian :) I'll sure try the bacon next time. I know my mom did that when I was a kid... smoked bacon or even sausages ;) I will have some spicy pickled cucumbers aside, for sure!soft water it is... Thanks
  • #11
  • Comment by Jay
If only your vegetarian friends knew how that Parmigiano-Reggiano was made... May as well have included the animal fats!
This is an excellent recipe and it looks wonderful!  My grandmother made pasta con i fagioli weekly when I was growing up.  To this day, it always makes me think of her.  It is my ultimate comfort food!
  • #13
  • Comment by Ouroboros
Hey there FX,

Looks great.  Can I safely assume that the specific bean that you used would be called "navy beans" here in the US?  I can't believe that I find myself researching beans after reading this recipe.  Is "beanology" a word?  If not, it should be...the different varieties and properties are remarkable.

Also, I would be delighted to see more homemade pasta (of all forms) articles.  That's something that I've always wanted to try, but the process seems intimidating.

Keep up the great work!

  • #14
  • Comment by Frederik (Bergen, Norway)
I discovered your site yesterday, and got stuck for hours! It is really fantastic with all the vivid photographs and simple step-by-step desription of even quite complicated recipes. It is also quite intimidating, because as amateur chefs we all make a lot of compromises in cooking, mostly in order to save time, cost or because of we lack some unusual ingredient or piece of equipment. You seem to love exactly those things that most people omit for practical reasons. Somehow you still manage to explain to us why the result is worth the effort. You are doing a great job!
  • #15
  • Answered by fx
Frederik, thanks a lot for your kind words, in fact I was speaking with a Norwegian friend about Bergen last week end. There was a great episod on Arte, the TV channel, about country cooking in Norway, so I'm glad to have a reader from there. I think homecooking can be done with different approaches. Many people, especially housewives, have to feed the household and they do not always cook when they like it, so they cut corners, which is normal and understandable. But people who cook at home only when and if they feel like it, with no great family pressure to put food on the table, have more leisure to look for fine recipes, special ingredients or really get into the finer details of cooking really oustanding meals. Clearly I fall in the latter category, and if you do too I can only recommend you try and cook with the most detailed recipes you can find and do everything with care - it is very rewarding!
  • #16
  • Answered by fx
Ouroboros, I think you can cook this with many different beans so use the ones you can best obtain. I have cooked this 3 times already this year, once with fresh beans, once with canned and once with dried ones. For the homemade pasta, just click on the "Homemade pasta" tag at the top of the article and you'll find a long list of articles I already published about it. Good luck!
  • #17
  • Answered by fx
Susan, how did your grandmother's recipe differ from this one? Was it more like a soup or more like a pasta sauce? where did she come from?
  • #18
  • Answered by fx
Jay, next time I see her I'll check to see if she's got a leather handbagg ... no, just joking, people live like they want and as a host my only and sacred duty is to make them happy for a few hours.
Nice Recipe, I love Pasta & Beans as we call it.
  • #20
  • Comment by Saxit
When I do pasta with beans I use either borlotti or cannellini beans. I skip the tomatoes and instead put half the beans in a blender when they are cooked. Then I just put everything back in the pot and stir so it basically becomes a thick sauce.
I'm gonna try your spice mix though - but I won't skip the pork :)
One of my favorite dishes, but I've never had it quite like this...thanks for the inspiration.
  • #22
  • Answered by fx
Nick, good luck, this one really is for the "Paupered Chef" as the beans triple in volume overnight!
  • #23
  • Answered by fx
Saxit, sounds like a great idea to mash a few of the beans to thicken the sauce!
  • #24
  • Comment by David
I made a similar recipe not so long but using pancetta as the fat, which take away from the vegetarianism. Have you tried using frozen beans? I can get frozen borlottis and like the texture better than dried. Of course they are much more expensive. I'll have to try this still.
The wife & I made this dish last evening and it was fabulous with some focaccia bread.

What a carb fiesta! I love your home made spagetti!
  • #27
  • Answered by fx
Johanna, thanks for your visit, indeed lots of carbs and almost no fat!
  • #28
  • Answered by fx
Dave, glad my beans pasta worked for you!
  • #29
  • Answered by fx
David, pancetta is a great match and although I have never tried frozen beans, it should work just as well. Dried beans are nice to play with but not always the best solution.
  • #30
  • Comment by Helena
Ok so I'm gullible. I actually believed this for a paragraph or two ...

"The next day, the beans have turned beige but the water has become yellow with what the Ancients called the yellow bile, the acquae fartorum. Many a cook of centuries past has lost his life after forgetting to discard this evil liquid, some in a kitchen fire as their bloated stomach released a cloud that exploded as soon as it met an open flame; others in their sleep, as the putrid vapours crept out of their exhausted bodies and poisoned all in the house. Yet others were spared thanks to an open window, only to be marked as stinking pariah and cast out of society in those houses they called domus peditum."

After reading about the we are out of pasta joke, I'm not so sure...

Fartorum indeed. Smeltus Deltus Est. Or in this case, Speaketh Deltus Est, to mix linguistic timelines and mash up the grammar. Good one, FX. :P
  • #31
  • Answered by fx
Helena, thanks for your appreciation of my fake historical background, even the great Umberto Eco cites fakes books and made up latin citations, it is quite fun indeed!
  • #32
  • Comment by isa
hi...i'm so sorry but...pasta e fagioli it's a soup not a pasta whit a fagioli ragł. :-D
  • #33
  • Answered by fx
Isa, indeed pasta e fagioli in Italy is most commonly a bean soup with some pasta added at the end, but as you must know in Italy you find similar recipes all over the country with different names and ingredients, and some use beans ragł to use with pasta.
  • #34
  • Comment by isa
Hi FX,
I'm italian from Vicenza, Veneto the country of true and original pasta e fagioli...
but I think your recipe it's so tasty!
see you, Isa
  • #35
  • Comment by Joe Marfice
FX, I'm confused by the parmesan rind. The photos make it look like you threw it in whole, and then cooked it down - but I suspect this was just for the photo opp. Grate first, oui ou non?
  • FX's answer→ Non, grate you not! You do leave the rind whole in the pot, cook, then discard. Nobody wants to eat boiled parmesan rind, even grated. However you could also use a whole piece, left whole, and boil it, then fish it out and cut in little pieces. Nobody in Italy does the latter but it works fine too.

  • #37
  • Comment by marilu
where can i buy a bigolaro in spain? thanks!!
  • #38
  • Comment by Angelo
This pasta looks crazy heavy/filling like that chestnut gnocchi you made a few articles back.
  • FX's answer→ Yes but it isn't, this is gorgeous and very Italian. You need to try it!

  • #40
  • Comment by don siranni
Francois,....."acquae  fartorum"  ????..??    There is truly much to be learned here!
  • #41
  • Comment by Michele Bardi
Parmesan for vegetarians? It's made with rennet from calves' stomachs. Oops,,,
I like your pictures very much, but I can die for Italian Soups with legumes. Beside the Pasta e fagioli, I really like cooking Mes-ciua, a soup of beans, chickpeas and spelt. But the upper one is always a classic!
  • #43
  • Comment by Patrick
Very good recipe. I add home made veal Demi-glacé to this dish. Makes a peasant dish incredibly rich.
  • FX's answer→ That is an excellent idea, homemade stock are a treasure and a sign of an accomplished foodie.

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