This flavourful and hearty vegetarian pasta e fagioli without meat recipe is the perfect meal to enjoy on a cold day to instantly warm you up. Though it doesn’t have the characteristic pancetta and porkiness that a traditional pasta e fagioli has, it doesn’t sacrifice any robust and complex flavours either.
Translating literally to “pasta and beans,” this is a hearty Tuscan bean and pasta soup that is incredibly deep and flavourful and definitely delicious. Using creamy cannellini, small pasta and hearty kale, this soup is also quite healthy for you and I promise you won’t miss the meat at all.
So if you’re looking for a pasta e fagioli recipe without meat, then you’ve come to the right place. Though there isn’t a lick of meat in this recipe, it is still hearty and very flavourful and will fill you up even on the coldest of winter days.
How to Make Pasta e Fagioli without Meat
Like many great Italian stews, this recipe for vegetarian pasta e fagioli begins with a sofrito. A sofrito is the Italian term for a mixture of onions, celery and carrots.
I recommend chopping the vegetable for your sofrito incredibly finely (you can even use a food processor for this to speed things up) because we aren’t looking to have big pieces of celery or carrot in the soup. It is there solely to provide flavour.
And on that note, I call for cooking the sofrito much longer than I typically would in other soup recipes (for instance, cauliflower soup or lentil soup). I really urge you not to skip this step as it adds the foundational flavours to this soup and ensures that it comes out tasting really complex and robust. It’s the same step I call for in my harira soup recipe.
Add a few tablespoons of olive oil into a Dutch oven or heavy-bottomed saucepan. Put it over medium heat and heat the oil until it’s shimmering. Add your carrots, onion and celery along with a generous pinch of salt.
Cook, stirring frequently to prevent burning, until the vegetables are very soft, beginning to brown and fond (browned bits on the bottom of the pan) is beginning to form. This will take about fifteen minutes.
Once you’ve reached this desired stage, add some minced garlic, chili flakes and some tomato paste. Cook until the garlic is very fragrant and the tomato paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, only a few minutes.
Now it’s time to deglaze the pan with a bit of white wine. I recommend using a dry white wine such as a pinot grigio or a sauvignon blanc – generally, the suggested rule is not to use a wine you wouldn’t want to drink yourself.
If you don’t like cooking with wine for whatever reason, you can skip this step (but make sure to add a bit of lemon juice at the end of cooking to balance the acidity).
Cook until the alcohol smell has cooked off and the wine has mostly evaporated. After that, add in a bit of soy sauce.
This may seem like an odd ingredient to add to an Italian soup, however, it really boosts the umami and makes this pasta e fagioli soup without meat taste a bit more complex and robust. I highly recommend not skipping this ingredient.
Then, add in a can of whole, peeled tomatoes that you’ve crushed with your hands (I think this provides better flavour and a preferable texture than using cans of pre-crushed tomatoes).
Stir everything to combine and cook the tomato mixture until it has thickened and reduced, about ten minutes or so. You want to be able to leave a trail when you scrap your spoon across the bottom of the pan.
Now, add a couple of cans of drained cannellini beans. Pour over some vegetable stock, add a couple of bay leaves and, to really boost the flavour and umami of the soup, a parmesan cheese rind. This is optional but highly recommended.
Then, using a potato masher, mash the beans until you’ve broken up about one-third of them. This helps both thicken the soup and lends to a nice, creamy texture.
Bring the soup up to a boil and then add your pasta. The traditional shape to use is ditalini, but you can use any small pasta shape you’d like – it really doesn’t matter.
Add a bunch of chopped fresh kale to the pot, as well, and stir to combine. Allow this to simmer until the pasta is al dente and the kale is tender, about another 10 minutes. I’m one of those people who loves kale in all applications – it works great cooked in this soup but it’s also fantastic raw in my kale and farro salad!
Now it’s time to finish up the soup! Fish out the parmesan rind and bay leaves from the pot, turn off the heat, and add in the zest of one lemon (if you didn’t use wine, now is the time to add a bit of lemon juice, as well).
Stir in some freshly chopped parsley and grate in some parmesan cheese, too, if desired. Portion the soup into bowls and top with more fresh parsley parmesan cheese. Serve with a side of garlic bread, if desired, and tuck in and enjoy! And if you’re looking for the perfect dessert to finish this off, you cannot go wrong with tiramisu!
- 30ml (2 tablespoons) extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium yellow onion, very finely diced
- 1 large carrot, very finely diced
- 1 rib celery, very finely diced
- 1/4 teaspoon chili flakes
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 150ml (1/2 cup) dry white wine (see note)
- 15ml (1 tablespoon) soy sauce
- 1 (400g or 14oz) can whole peeled tomatoes, crushed with hands
- 2 (400g or 14oz) cans cannellini beans, drained
- 1.5 litres vegetable stock
- 1 parmesan cheese rind (optional)
- 2 bay leaves (optional)
- 125g (1 cup) small pasta such as ditalini, macaroni or small shells
- 1 bunch kale, stripped from ribs and roughly chopped
- 20g (1/4 cup) flat leaf parsley, chopped
- Zest from 1 lemon
- Grated parmesan cheese, for garnish
- Salt & pepper
- Place a Dutch oven or large, heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add the onion, carrot and celery along with a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the vegetables are very soft, beginning to brown and fond begins to collect on the bottom of the pan, about 10-15 minutes. If you find the vegetables are browning too quickly, add a splash of water to halt the cooking.
- Add the chili flakes, garlic and tomato paste. Cook until very fragrant and the tomato paste begins to stick to the bottom of the pan, about 2-3 minutes.
- Add the white wine, stir to combine and cook until the alcohol smell has dissipated and the wine has almost entirely reduced, about 3-5 minutes. Add the soy sauce and stir to combine.
- Add the tomatoes along with all of their juices. Stir to combine and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened and reduced (you should be able to draw a line with your spoon and have the bottom of the pan be visible), about 10 minutes.
- Add the beans. Pour over vegetable stock, add the parmesan rind (if using), the bay leaves, and a few generous pinches of salt. Stir to combine and bring to a simmer.
- Using a potato masher, mash the beans until about 1/3 of them are broken down. Then, add the pasta and kale and stir. Simmer, stirring frequently to ensure the pasta does not stick to the bottom of the pot, until the pasta is tender and al dente, about 10 minutes.
- Turn off the heat. Remove the parmesan rind and bay leaves from the pot. Add parsley and lemon zest and stir to combine. Taste to adjust for seasoning.
- Serve, topping with grated parmesan, chopped parsley and extra virgin olive oil, if desired.
Pinot Grigio, Semillon or Sauvignon Blanc are great options, but you can use any dry white wine you have on hand. You can skip the wine if you don't want to/can't cook with alcohol. However, add the juice of half a lemon when adding the zest when finishing up the soup in order to get the desired level of acidity.
Nutrition Information:Yield: 6 Serving Size: 1
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 265Total Fat: 4gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 8mgSodium: 964mgCarbohydrates: 43gFiber: 5gSugar: 5gProtein: 12g
Nutritional information is automatically generated and provided as guidance only. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
This vegetarian pasta e fagioli without meat is absolutely delicious, incredibly hearty and intensely flavourful. You won’t miss any meat when digging into this beautiful and rustic Italian stew!
Are you looking to make a pasta, kale and white bean soup? Have any questions about this recipe? Let us know in the comments!