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Pasta, Borlotti Bean and Rosemary Soup: Pasta e fagioli

by Russell Norman from Brutto

With its richly flavoured broth, strips of pancetta and both borlotti beans and pasta, this authentic Italian soup from Brutto is comfort food defined.


When I think of comfort food, my mind turns to pasta e fagioli. It’s a very good example of a dish that may not look pretty, but delivers a lot of flavour and satisfying umami. The ingredients are inexpensive and it’s a very reliable pantry staple – you should have pretty much everything you need in your larder and fridge without needing to go shopping. You can use any small pasta shape but ditalini or macaroni work best. The quantities in this recipe will serve more than four people but I like the option of going back for seconds.

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extra virgin olive oil
125g unsmoked pancetta, cut into small matchsticks
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely diced
1 celery stalk, finely diced
250g dried borlotti beans, soaked overnight in cold water
A handful of rosemary leaves, no stalks
1.5 litres hot chicken stock
200g ditalini
flaky sea salt
black pepper
grated Parmesan, for serving crusty bread, for serving


Place a large saucepan on a medium heat and add a good glug or two of olive oil. Gently sauté the pancetta for a couple of minutes until the meat is starting to colour. Add the chopped garlic and stir for a further minute. Now add the onion, carrot and celery and a splash more olive oil. Coat all the ingredients well and sweat for 12 minutes or so, until glossy and translucent.

Drain and rinse the borlotti beans. Add them to the pan with the rosemary, stir for a few minutes, then add two-thirds of the chicken stock. Bring to a gentle boil, then reduce to a low simmer, cover with the lid and leave for 2 hours.

Remove about half the beans with a slotted spoon and place them in a blender. When the mixture has a thick, smooth consistency, return it to the pan and add the pasta and the rest of the stock if necessary, with a good pinch of salt and a twist of black pepper. Cook for a further 5–6 minutes, taste and add more salt if needed, and serve in four warmed bowls. Zig-zag the top of each serving with a thin stream of olive oil, using a pourer or your thumb to stop the olive oil drizzling too quickly.

Serve with plenty of Parmesan on the table and some crusty bread.

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