Pasta Fagiole Casserole | La Bella Vita Cucina

By now most people know about Pasta e Fagioli, the hearty, delicious Italian comfort soup filled with ‘pasta and beans’ which the name translates to.   This soup was a staple in my Italian home way back before my existence in the 1950s. The recipe came over to America ‘on the boat’ with my Italian grandparents.  My mother knew how to stretch a dollar when she cooked.  Pasta e Fagioli was one of the many inexpensive, humble dishes that fell in the category of “Cucina Povera” meaning cooking of the poor. 

And then I found a recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that caught my eye:  Pasta a Fagioli al Forno!  A casserole version of the classic Pasta e Fagioli (lovingly called “Pasta Fazool” in my family).  This dish was a huge hit from the very first bite when I took it to a family gathering in the 90’s.  For a family reunion recently, my mother and I prepared it once again.  The same result happened . . . it was devoured!  If you’re watching your weight, you’ll have to pass up on this, because it’s pretty heavy in calories, carbs, and fat.  But you have to indulge sometimes huh?  If you don’t like beans, you can leave them out, but then it wouldn’t be a spin-off of the famous Pasta e Fagioli soup. 

 

 

Here Are The Ingredients You’ll Need

Pasta: Penne, mostaciolli, rigatoni, ziti . . . any pasta shape that has a “tube” through it and is medium-sized.

Beans: My family only uses kidney beans in Pasta e Fagioli soup and this baked version also calls for dark red kidney beans.  Since many Italian recipes use Cannelini beans, you can substitute those.  Just remember that the flavor of cannellini beans is much more mild in flavor.

Sausage:  For Italian recipes, use Italian-seasoned sausage.  Don’t use ‘country’, ‘cajun/Andouille’, chorizo, kielbasa, German, English bangers, or any other spiced/flavored sausage.  You can also use plain sausage and spice it the way that you prefer.   

Ground beef:  It pairs nicely with the Italian sausage.   

Tomatoes: Buy the best canned tomatoes available or buy them online: The best are San Marzano tomatoes imported from Italy.

Tomato Paste:  It adds a deeper, more intense tomato flavor.

Onions and Garlic:  I mean what would an Italian recipe without these two food stars!

Herbs and Spices:  Fresh Basil, Fresh Italian Parsley, Oregano, and Thyme.

Cheese: For the best flavor in your Pasta a Fagioli, use Fontina and good Parmigiana.  It is always best to check with your cheesemonger for his/her opinion.  Provolone and mozzarella are okay substitutes but they don’t have the flavor that Fontina and Parmiggiana have.

Olive oil:  For sauteeing (I always add a little butter for richness).


 

So let’s get to the Cucina, OK?

Here are some simple, step-by-step photos to help guide you:

First, dice the onion nicely

 
Then dice the garlic
 
 
In a very large frying pan add a few tablespoons of olive oil (and/or butter), saute’ the diced onion first for just a few minutes,
 and then add the garlic to saute for another 5 minutes until softened.  Be careful
because garlic burns very easily, so you want to keep an eye on this
 
 
 
** Set another burner on high heat and start boiling water in a tall pot to cook your pasta **
 
Then add both the ground Italian sausage and ground beef to the onions & garlic
 
 
With a spatula, chop up the ground meats. 
You’ll have to do this several times as the meats continue to brown
 
 
This is what the texture should look like and will continue to get
even more chopped as the sauteing goes along
 
 
After the meat mixture is nicely browned, add the herbs and spices
except the Italian parsley which you add at the end before baking
 
 
 
You’re coming along great!
Now it’s time to add the tomatoes and tomato paste
 
 
If possible, use imported “San Marzano” tomatoes from Italy
 
 
Add the (drained) beans, mix well, and cook for another 5 minutes.
Then pour everything in a huge mixing bowl (or pot) because next you are going to add the pasta!
 
 
Remember the water that you heated earlier?
Well, if the water has come to a nice rolling boil, then carefully (without splashing) place
the pasta in the hot water to cook
NO MORE THAN 5 MINUTES 
because the pasta will continue to bake in the oven
 
 
Drain the pasta and toss in the big mixing bowl (or pot) to mix with the meat sauce
 
tomatoes and pasta
 
Gently mix everything thoroughly
 
 
Mix in the two cheeses
 
 
Mix in the chopped parsley
 
 
Coat the inside of a baking pan with baking spray, olive oil, or butter
Pour the entire mixture into the prepared baking pan.
Sprinkle more grated cheese all over the top of the mixture.
 
 
Bake in a 400-degree F oven for 20 minutes
Then cover it with aluminum foil
and bake for another 10 minutes
 
I made 3 different batches and sizes to give to others and for my College faculty Christmas luncheon (see below).
Tip:  Do not take this casserole where there isn’t an oven to heat it again.  A microwave oven does nothing but dry it out and a rubbery, hard texture results.
 
 
 
 
 
 
Pasta Fagiole Casserole | La Bella Vita Cucina
 
Serve big portions of this cheesy casserole — and it’s even better the next day!
 
 
 
 

What to Serve with Pasta e Fagioli al Forno

This is a very hearty pasta dish and unbelievably filling.  In my home, we serve this with a simple mixed-leaf salad tossed in a nice balsamic vinaigrette.  My husband is a bread freak, so I make some garlic-cheese bread for him.  When meals are on the heavy side, Italians prefer some simple, raw fruit such as sliced apples, peaches, pears, or even figs.  So serve whatever is in season.   

How to Store Pasta e Fagioli al Forno

Refrigerate Pasta e Fagioli al Forno casserole with either aluminum foil snuggle attached to the top or use an airtight container.  Some pans have their own lid such as this one, (plus it’s much better to freeze food in a metal pan versus a glass pan that can easily shatter when placed in an oven after having been frozen)!  Link

We make 2 batches, one to enjoy when prepared, and one to freeze and enjoy later especially when need something right away and don’t have a lot of time on your hands to prepare a full dinner.  It’s great to have when friends and family stop by!

To freeze, always allow the casserole to cool off completely.  Again, make sure that it is securely covered tightly.  And just set it in the freezer. 

When it’s time to defrost and reheat, place the casserole in the refrigerator to thaw out in about 4 hours or overnight.  Then place it in an oven-safe baking pan (if it’s not already in one) in a 400-degree oven for 30 minutes, or until completely heated through.

Serve!

 
 
Here’s the recipe for you to prepare someday.  
I hope that you enjoy it!
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Pasta Fagiole Casserole | La Bella Vita Cucina

Baked Pasta Fagiole

  • Author: Roz
  • Prep Time: 0 hours
  • Additional Time: 0 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
  • Total Time: 0 hours

Ingredients

Units Scale
  • 1 lb. Italian mild sausage (ground)
  • 1 lb. lean ground beef
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 6 large garlic cloves, chopped/minced
  • 1 tsp. oregano
  • 1 tsp. thyme
  • 3 Tbsp. basil (use fresh if possible)
  • 1 28oz. can chopped plum tomatoes
  • 3 Tbsp. tomato paste
  • 1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
  • 1 15oz. can kidney beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 lb. 5 minute cooked penne pasta
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Regiano Parmesan cheese
  • 1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley
  • 1 1/2 lb. grated Fontina cheese

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  2. Sauté onions and garlic in a large heavy pan until softened (do not burn the garlic).
  3. Add the Italian sausage and ground beef.
  4. Brown the meats until browned and crumbling with a spatula.
  5. Add the oregano, thyme, and basil.
  6. Add the tomatoes, tomato paste, and cayenne pepper.
  7. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the beans.
  9. Season with salt and pepper.
  10. Add the pasta, Parmesan, and parsley.
  11. Blend in half of the shredded Fontina cheese.
  12. Toss all to combine well.
  13. Pour into a Pam-sprayed, large casserole dish.
  14. Sprinkle the last half of the Fontina cheese on top to form a good layer with some pasta peeping out too.
  15. Cover with foil until the last 10 minutes to get the cheese a golden brown color.
  16. Bake for 30 minutes.

This post was first published in 2012 and updated with more information and step-by-step photos in 2023.
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