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What is the difference between pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli?

Pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli are two similar Italian pasta and bean soups. They both feature pasta and beans as the main ingredients, but there are some key differences between the two. In this article, we will explore the origins, ingredients, preparations, and distinguishing features of pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli to understand how they differ.

Origins and History

Pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli both originated in Italy, but emerged in different regions.

Pasta fagioli traces its roots to Rome and central Italy. It is considered a traditional Roman dish and was often eaten by poorer families who used simple ingredients like pasta and beans to create filling meals. The name “pasta fagioli” comes from the Italian words for pasta (pasta) and beans (fagioli).

Meanwhile, pasta fagioli originated in Naples and southern Italy. The name “pasta e fagioli” translates to “pasta and beans” in the Neapolitan dialect. It was commonly prepared using ingredients that were abundant in the south like tomatoes, basil, and borlotti beans.

So while both dishes use pasta and beans, pasta fagioli arose in central Italy while pasta fagioli emerged from southern Italian culinary traditions. The differences in their origins impact some of their key characteristics.


The core ingredients in pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli are largely the same – pasta and beans. However, the specific types of pasta and beans used can vary.


Pasta fagioli typically uses small pasta shapes such as ditalini or tubetti. The small sizes are well-suited for scooping up with a spoon.

Pasta fagioli often uses slightly larger or shaped pastas like elbow macaroni or shells. The heartier pasta stands up well when baked or mixed with other chunky ingredients.


For pasta fagioli, the beans used are usually cannellini or borlotti beans. Cannellini beans are white kidney beans with a smooth, creamy texture. Borlotti beans are pink-speckled and have a firm bite.

Pasta fagioli utilizes cannellini beans, borlotti beans, or chickpeas. The variety lends more texture and visual appeal. Beans may also be used whole or pureed.

Other Ingredients

Pasta fagioli’s other typical ingredients include tomatoes, garlic, onion, celery, carrots, chicken or vegetable broth, and parmesan cheese. Oregano, rosemary, or basil may be used to add flavor.

Pasta fagioli contains tomatoes, garlic, onion, parsley, vegetable or beef broth, and parmesan. Basil, oregano, and red pepper flakes add robust seasoning. Ingredients like capers, olives, anchovies, and pork guanciale or pancetta may also be included.

So while both share core ingredients like tomatoes, onion, and garlic, pasta fagioli has a more complex mix of seasonings and additions like meat or briny ingredients.


The preparation methods for pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli also have some variances:

Pasta Fagioli

– Soak beans overnight before cooking
– Cook beans until tender before adding to soup
– Sauté aromatics like onion, celery, carrot
– Add tomatoes, broth, herbs and seasonings
– Simmer bean mixture for 1-2 hours
– Cook pasta separately until al dente
– Mix pasta into soup and serve with parmesan

Pasta Fagioli

– Sauté pancetta or guanciale
– Add aromatics and tomatoes; cook until broken down
– Add beans and broth; simmer 30-45 minutes
– Stir in pasta and cook until al dente
– Mix in Parmesan, olive oil, parsley or basil
– Can be served immediately or baked as a casserole

The steps vary mainly in the cooking of the beans. Pasta fagioli cooks the beans thoroughly before assembling the soup. Pasta fagioli briefly cooks the beans with the other ingredients. The pasta fagioli method also adds meat for flavor.

Texture and Consistency

The textures of the two dishes differ slightly:

Pasta Fagioli

– Brothy soup consistency
– Creamed beans create a thick base
– Pasta and beans are tender but firm
– Slightly rustic texture

Pasta Fagioli

– More robust, stew-like consistency
– Can be creamy and smooth or chunky
– Beans retain more bite
– Heartier pasta stands up to other ingredients
– More varied textures

Pasta fagioli is like a thick, creamy bean soup with distinct beans and pasta. Pasta fagioli has a heartier, chunkier texture with the pasta and beans having more resistance. The variations in preparation lead to the differences in texture.

Flavor Profiles

While both dishes are satisfying Italian comfort foods, pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli have some flavor distinctions:

Pasta Fagioli

– Delicate flavor balanced between beans and pasta
– Tomato and herb flavors are mild
– Subtle notes of garlic, onion, celery, carrot
– Savory and slightly salty from parmesan
– Oregano or rosemary contribute earthy background

Pasta Fagioli

– Robust seasoning from tomatoes, basil, oregano
– Sharp, salty Pecorino Romano cheese often used
– Can have bites of pepper and garlic
– Meat adds hearty, smoky notes
– Capers and olives contribute brininess
– Bolder, brighter overall flavor

Pasta fagioli has a more assertive seasoning thanks to ingredients like pancetta, hot pepper, capers, and bold cheeses. Pasta fagioli allows the bean and pasta flavors to shine through more.

Regional Variations

There are regional variations of both pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli across Italy:

Pasta Fagioli

– Rome: Borlotti and cannellini beans, guanciale, rosemary, sage
– Tuscany: Cannellini beans, pancetta, cavolo nero
– Abruzzo: More brothy, saffron, mint
– Sicily: Tomatoes, eggplant, basil, oregano, anchovies

Pasta Fagioli

– Naples: Cannellini beans, pancetta, hot pepper, pasta crock-baked
– Puglia: Orecchiette pasta, fennel, broccoli rabe
– Sicily: Dark red kidney beans, peppers, capers, olives
– Emilia-Romagna: Red beans, rosemary, sage, parmesan rind

The regions put their own spin on the dishes based on local ingredients, traditions, and influences. But the cores of pasta, beans, and aromatics remain throughout Italy.

Serving Suggestions

Here are some tips for serving each soup:

Pasta Fagioli

– Garnish with extra virgin olive oil and parmesan
– Pair with bruschetta or garlic bread
– Accompany with a sharp Italian white wine like Trebbiano
– Top with sautéed greens like kale or spinach
– Finish with fresh herbs like basil or oregano

Pasta Fagioli

– Top with Pecorino Romano or peppery ricotta salata cheese
– Serve with crusty Italian bread for dipping
– Match with a medium-bodied Italian red like Chianti
– Add fresh basil leaves or Calabrian chili oil
– Ladle over toasted bread for added richness

With bright garnishes, hearty breads, and Italian wines, both make for comforting, satisfying meals. Choosing herbs, cheeses, and accompaniments that complement the existing flavors will maximize enjoyment.


Both pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli deliver substantial nutrition:

Nutrient Pasta Fagioli Pasta Fagioli
Calories 255 cal per cup 285 cal per cup
Fat 4 g 8 g
Carbs 45 g 40 g
Protein 15 g 13 g
Fiber 8 g 7 g

Both provide protein from the beans and pasta along with antioxidants like lycopene from the tomatoes. The fiber content helps regulate digestion thanks to beans. Pasta fagioli is moderately higher in fat from ingredients like meat and cheese. Overall, they make nutritious, well-rounded meals.

Cost Comparison

Pasta fagioli is generally the more budget-friendly option between the two:

Pasta Fagioli

Ingredients like pancetta, sausage, or capers can drive up costs. Use cheaper meats like ham hocks or turkey kielbasa to save money. Buying canned beans is pricier than dried, but more convenient. Making your own broth rather than store-bought also helps reduce expenses.

Pasta Fagioli

Dried beans, canned tomatoes, pasta, carrots, celery and broth are all very inexpensive. Buying ground beef instead of pricier guanciale slashes costs further. Opt for cheap aromatics like onion and garlic over pricy herbs. Making a large batch creates several budget meals.

While both can be made economically, pasta fagioli’s simpler ingredients generally make it a more wallet-friendly option. But buying store broths, meats, or canned beans for pasta fagioli raises the price tag. Overall, costs come down to specific ingredients used.

Ease of Preparation

Pasta fagioli requires a bit more hands-on cooking time compared to pasta fagioli:

Pasta Fagioli

– Longer prep with overnight bean soaking
– Simmering the bean broth for 1-2 hours needs monitoring
– More ingredients to prep like carrots, celery, and herbs
– Cooking pasta separately streamlines process
– Ability to make vegetarian without much modification

Pasta Fagioli

– Shorter active cooking time of 30-45 minutes
– One-pot method saves dishes and steps
– Simple ingredient list of aromatics, beans, tomatoes
– Cooking pasta right in the soup pot simplifies
– Making vegetarian requires substituting meat

With its quicker stove time and less hands-on work, pasta fagioli comes together a little more easily. Pasta fagioli’s longer bean cook time and extra vegetable prepping makes it more labor intensive.

Storage and Leftovers

Here are some tips for storing and repurposing leftovers of each soup:

Pasta Fagioli

– Stores well in the fridge up to 5 days
– Can freeze for 2-3 months; thaw before reheating
– Add leftover chicken, meatballs or sausage
– Toss with spinach, kale or escarole
– Bake into casseroles or turn into stuffed peppers

Pasta Fagioli

– Keeps refrigerated for 4-5 days
– Can freeze for 1-2 months
– Turn into a pizza topping
– Stuff into a baked potato or sweet potato
– Mix in shrimp or clams for seafood version
– Blend into a smooth bean dip

The bean and veggie content of both make them freezer-friendly. Adding mix-ins like greens, meats, or seafood is an easy way to repurpose leftovers. Both reheat well on the stove or in the oven.

Comparison Chart

Here is a helpful table summarizing the key differences:

Category Pasta Fagioli Pasta Fagioli
Origin Central Italy Southern Italy
Primary Beans Used Cannellini, borlotti Cannellini, borlotti, chickpeas
Other Key Ingredients Tomatoes, carrots, celery, parsley, rosemary Tomatoes, pancetta, basil, oregano, olives
Texture Creamy, brothy, rustic Hearty, chunky, robust
Flavor Profile Delicate, balanced Bold, bright
Preparation Long simmer, beans cooked separately Shorter active time, one-pot
Budget-Friendly Yes With affordable ingredients

This summarizes how the dishes differ in terms of history, ingredients, textures, flavors, cooking methods, costs, and more. Keep this guide handy when navigating between pasta fagioli versus pasta fagioli!


Get answers to some common questions about pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli:

Is pasta fagioli better than pasta fagioli?

Whether pasta fagioli or pasta fagioli is “better” comes down to personal taste preferences. Those wanting a hearty, robust soup may favor pasta fagioli. If seeking a lighter, more delicate flavor, pasta fagioli may be preferred.

Can you use any type of bean in pasta fagioli?

Kidney beans, cannellini beans, and chickpeas are typical in pasta fagioli. But you can experiment with beans like navy, cranberry, pinto, or black beans for unique flavors and textures.

What meat goes well with pasta fagioli?

Popular meats are pork guanciale or pancetta, spicy Italian sausage, prosciutto, and bacon. Ham hocks or pork shoulder add richness. Chicken can work too. Use meat sparingly to keep the bean and pasta flavors at the forefront.

Is pasta fagioli gluten free?

No, traditional pasta fagioli contains gluten from wheat-based pastas. For gluten-free pasta fagioli, substitute rice pasta, chickpea pasta, or gluten-free elbows to make it gluten-free.

Which cheese is best on pasta e fagioli?

Parmesan and Pecorino Romano are classic choices. Ricotta salata and mozzarella also pair well. Sharp cheeses like Asiago, Romano, and Parmesan balance the acidity. Fresh mozzarella or burrata contrast with creamy textures.


Pasta fagioli and pasta fagioli have much in common – they’re both satisfying Italian comfort foods combining pasta and beans. But there are some key distinctions regarding ingredients, textures, flavors, and preparations that make each unique. Pasta fagioli offers heartier textures and bolder flavors thanks to additions like meat or olives. Pasta fagioli has a more delicate profile with the bean and pasta flavors front and center. Both make excellent meals, so choose the version that best suits your tastes and kitchen needs!