In every country or region, there is just this one dish that brings people straight to memory lane. You know, those kinds of food where is is warm, fuzzy, and very comforting that brings you back to the good old days. For every Italian, it is the humble Pasta e Fagioli or also pronounced as Pasta Fazool. Seriously, every Italian that shares this recipe or any Italian who talks about it just straight up says that they remembered something when eating or making it. Either a childhood memory, friends, grandparents or family. That’s why this dish is very special to every Italian I know. And even if you are not, you will definitely love how delicious and filling this one pot wonder of pasta and beans.
Pasta Fagioli or Fazool was originally a peasant food in Italy. Back to the days where the country is still poor and a lot just got enough to get by, this dish always saves the day. It is very cheap because it only needs few main ingredients and a little amount when cooked can feed a large family. In days when it is cold, this easy dish can easily warm up your stomach and set you in for the day. In the old days, it is only made with white kidney beans, short cut pasta, and some tomatoes. As time goes by, the recipe evolved and every region or family in Italy has their own recipe of it, owning it and keeping it as one family tradition passed through generations. The truth is, you can actually add anything to this dish, meat, vegetable or any extra ingredients that suit your taste.
And so today, I will share with you a take on the Pasta e Fagioli, giving it a twist by adding some zucchini and backing it up with some delicious flavors from Italian sausage and cooking it in a slow cooker to strengthen the flavors of the dish. This will be a very easy dish so you don’t need to worry about it. Cooking it in a slow cooker makes easy, worry-free cooking that you just can leave and forget for hours while being busy with some things and just come back to it later and you’re ready to serve! This recipe will be easy, still very affordable but done with a twist from the classic pasta fazool. Ready? Let’s get cooking.
The classic recipe doesn’t have meat, because as mentioned that it is a peasant’s dish, meat was very expensive and hard to come by so it was meatless. But in our recipe, we will need to brown some Italian sausages or you can use pancetta if you like. I like how the Italian sausage flavors this dish so we are using that.
Meanwhile, you want to prepare the ingredients for the slow cooker. I want some onions and celery but I love them sauteed first for more flavor and then I put that in the pot together with some diced or pureed tomatoes that I usually make from fresh ones, the cannellini or white kidney beans, the chicken stock, roasted garlic cloves or minced, jarred garlic, salt, and pepper and also the herbs and spices.
After browning your meat, you want to add it to the pot and stir well. Set it on high and let it cook for 3-4 hours, stirring every hour. With only 10 minutes at the cook time left, you want to stir in your diced zucchini and your short cut pasta and let it cook until the pasta is al dente and the zucchini is tender. You may also want to add some cheese and breadcrumbs to thicken the sauce a little.
This dish is perfect as is, or topped with some cheese and enjoyed with some toasted Italian bread or whatever crusty bread you have on hand. If you want to be a little fancy and want to forget about this dish labeled as a peasant food, try it with some good wine like merlot or any light red wine and be surprised how fancy this can get.
It is true, that the best dishes are not made with fancy ingredients, oftentimes, it is about the simplest ones, with great flavor, good story, and something that brings out the word “family”.
Slow Cooker Pasta e Fagioli e Zucchini
- 1 1/2 cups of short cut pasta (ditalini or elbow cut)
- 1 can of 30 ounces cannellini beans (or you can use boiled up dried beans about 3 cups)
- 4 cups of chicken stock
- 1/4 pound Italian sausage or pancetta
- 1 large onion, diced
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 cup or fresh tomato puree or diced tomatoes
- 1 1/2 cups or sliced zucchini
- salt and pepper to taste
- some herbs like parsley, basil or thyme.
- 1/2 cup Parmigiano, Romano or parmesan cheese
- 1/2 cup plain breadcrumbs
- 4 tbsp oil
- Brown your meat in a pan until
- Sautee your onions and celery in oil until just tender and translucent.
- In your slow cooker, combine the ingredients in, except for the pasta, zucchini cheese and breadcrumbs. Combine them well and set the cooker to high and cook for 3-4 hours stirring occasional (every hour).
- 10 minutes before the cook time ends, add in the pasta and zucchini and cook until the pasta is al dente and the zucchinis are tender. Add in your cheese and breadcrumbs and cook it for another minute or so.
- Serve it topped with some cheese and with crusty bread.
- For vegans, just omit the meat, cheese, chicken stock and other ingredients and back it up with vegetable stock, and some flavorful vegies like carrots, broccoli etc.