Weeknight Cooking

Pasta Fagioli

December 10, 2012

Jenny is in perpetual search for easy, weeknight recipes to attempt to feed her family. When they balk, she just eats more.

Pasta Fagioli

When I discovered that a daddy longlegs spider had apparently lived a long and productive life among the crickets and mismatched socks in my basement, only to die in the lid of my crock pot, I took it as a sign that I should return to some slow cooking. 

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I have lamented in this space before about my failure to adequately use my crock pot, and others have raised skeptical voices about the real utility of this old-school piece of equipment. It’s true that braising generally yields more flavor, and that most one-pot meals, like Pasta Fagioli - Hearty Bean Soup can be made in a pot on the stove. 

But I have adopted this recipe for the crock pot for one central reason, which is the reason most people embrace crock pots, because it can do your work for you while you do work for others, which may or may not include asking Senator Joe Lieberman to explore his feelings about retirement. 

The key to this recipe is the under-appreciated ham hock, which provides such a wonderfully smoky, meaty, rounded edge to the dish. The vegetables and beans combine to form that heartiness of the dish, together forming a meal in a single bowl, often the week night cook’s most precious goal. 

If you want to make this dish as written on the stove, go forward. If you want to do it in a crock pot, as I did, here are a few tips: 

1.I have a standard-sized slow cooker, and there was nowhere near enough room for all those beans; I ended up fishing out about 2.5 cups of them, sadly losing an onion piece and bit of herbs along the way. Reduce the amount of beans unless you have a large crock pot.

2.A cheese rind makes this better, but it will be plenty delicious without one, so don’t wait to have one on hand to make this. 

3.I had a ton of fresh thyme left in my garden so I threw that in. If you have fresh herbs, use them. 

4.Broth yes, if you have it.  I used chicken. 

5.Pasta no, if you don’t feel like it. The beans are plenty of starch and heft on their own.

Pasta Fagioli - Hearty Bean Soup by ibbeachnana

Serves 8-10

2 bags of dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, chopped in large chunks
1 leftover ham bone or 2 ham hocks
12 cups water 2 cups less if using broth
1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano (or can use fresh herbs)
1 bay leaf
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 can whole tomatoes and juice, rough chopped
1/2 pound or more of tubetti pasta
1 cheese rind, optional
2 cups beef broth, optional
1 cup chicken broth, optional
2 cups Greens of your choice, Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, sauteed in garlic and olive oil. Add to just about finished soup

See the full recipe (and save it and print it) here.


Photo by James Ransom

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Written by: Jestei

The ratio of people to cake is too big.


maureencd May 4, 2013
I made this in December and it was excellent. It also yielded two additional meals because I froze the leftovers. Dribbens, your comment was very helpful. I tracked it down again today because it seems like the perfect meal for when husband is on a business trip this week.
hsubuck January 21, 2013
if using the crock pot, it sounds like you cook the beans on their own the night before. then in the morning, do you throw everything else in or do some of the ingredients, i.e. sauteing the vegetables or boiling the pasta, need to still be done separately? that's the problem i've had with slow cooker recipes, you have to do so many steps on the stove anyway it takes away the appeal of slow cooking's supposed simplicity.
maltesefalcon December 16, 2012
what is the weight or size of bag for the navy beans. I'm shopping in Canada and want to make sure they are the same. Thanks
mcs3000 December 15, 2012
I have a new crock pot. New as never been used :( If I can find where I stored it, I'll try this recipe...
Angela December 10, 2012
if I use the crockpot, can I skip bean-soaking, bean-simmering steps? how about the pre-cooking pasta step? or would I still have to do those?
Kimbees54 December 10, 2012
Hi Angela. If you click on the link at the bottom to see the full recipe, it'll let you know regarding the soaking. (You have to still soak them.) :)
d_ribbens December 11, 2012
I make bean-based dishes in my crock pot all the time, and I have found the best way to get incredibly tender beans is to start the night before. For one 1lb bag of beans, pick and rinse, then drop them in the crock pot and cover with 6c water. No salt (prevents the water from getting in the beans; basic rules of osmosis). Cook on low 8 hours (overnight). In the morning, your beans will be ready and, since you'll just be dumping them back in the crock pot, you don't need to wash more dishes in between. Win :)
Lizthechef December 10, 2012
I think I'm going to try this using only one bag of beans - a terrific recipe for this busy time of year.