pasta e fagioli soup -easily convert to vegetarian

a recipe by
Maureen Martin
Independence, MO

Easily converted to vegetarian by swapping out meat with extra beans, and changing the meat broth to vegetable broth. Prep time depends on your chopping skills. I'm slow, so it takes me longer. I used a shorter time to estimate this recipe for normal people. Cook time can be as short as 20 minutes (not including browning the meat and sauteeing the veg which I included in Prep Time), as listed, but as long as 4 hours if desired. Inspired by several copycat Olive Garden recipes.

serves 6 - 8
prep time 30 Min
cook time 25 Min
method Stove Top

Ingredients For pasta e fagioli soup -easily convert to vegetarian

  • 2 Tbsp
    olive oil, divided
  • 1 - 2 lb
    lean ground beef (or all or 1/2 italian sausage, casings removed) (if making vegetarian, omit meat and add 1 or 2 more cans of beans, below)
  • 1 1/2 c
    onion (about 1 medium)
  • 1 c
    shredded carrots (about 3 medium)
  • 1 c
    diced celery (about 3 stalks)
  • 3 clove
    minced garlic (about 1 tbs)
  • 3 8-oz can
    tomato sauce (optional 16 - 24 ozs)
  • 2 14.5-oz can
    low sodium chicken broth (optional 24 - 32 oz vegetable, beef, or chicken stock)
  • 1/2 c
    water or broth (more as desired)
  • 1 15-oz can
    diced tomatoes (optional, up to 28 oz)
  • 2 Tbsp
    granulated sugar
  • 1 tsp
    dried oregano (or omit the other herbs and add 1 tbs oregano)
  • 1 1/2 tsp
    dried basil
  • 3/4 tsp
    dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp
    dried marjoram
  • To taste
    salt and ground black pepper
  • 8 oz
    dry ditalini pasta
  • 1 15-oz can
    dark red kidney beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 15-oz can
    great northern beans, drained & rinsed
  • 1 Tbsp
    white vinegar (optional)
  • FOR SERVING
  • To taste
    finely shredded romano or parmesan cheese
  • 3 Tbsp
    minced fresh parsley

How To Make pasta e fagioli soup -easily convert to vegetarian

  • 1
    Heat 1 Tbsp olive oil in a stock pot over medium high heat. Crumble in ground beef and/or sausage (if using) and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through. (I like to make sure it has some caramelization [toasty brownness!] for extra flavor, which takes a little longer.)
  • 2
    Drain fat from meat then transfer to a plate and set aside. Heat remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil in same pot.
  • 3
    Add onions, carrots, and celery to pot. Saute over medium-high heat until tender about 7 minutes, then add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
  • 4
    Add chicken or beef broth/stock, tomato sauce, water, canned tomatoes, sugar, herbs, and cooked meat, then season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • 5
    Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with lid and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until veggies are soft, about 20 minutes. (Or longer if desired: one recipe said cook for 1 hour; another said 4 - 5 hours)
  • 6
    About 15 minutes before soup is done (above), prepare ditalini pasta according to package directions (including drain and rinse), cooking to al dente (very firm, but not raw). (Will soften the longer it is left in the soup).
  • 7
    Add cooked and drained pasta to soup (see NOTE below) along with vinegar and both types of beans. Thin with a little more broth or water if desired. Stir gently but thoroughly.
  • 8
    Allow to cook 2 minutes longer to heat beans through. Stir in parsley (or sprinkle on top of individual bowls) and serve warm with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese.
  • 9
    NOTE If you don't plan to eat all the soup right away, consider adding the cooked pasta to individual servings instead of the whole pot. Otherwise the pasta absorbs too much liquid and gets mushy over time. Divide pasta by 6 or 8, depending on number of servings you plan to make.
  • 10
    VEGETARIAN OPTION For a vegetarian conversion, you can substitute another can or two or beans (drained and rinsed) for the ground meat, and vegetable broth for the meat broth.
  • 11
    GUILTY SECRET I buy 75% - 80% lean ground beef and omit the olive oil because I like the flavor better. I tip the pot to remove the meat, leaving the beef fat behind to saute the veg.
  • 12
    SUBSTITUTING FRESH HERBS Typically, use three times more fresh herbs than dry (with a few exceptions, but not in this recipe), so 1 tsp of dry = 1 TBS fresh.

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