This low-fat, vegan pasta fagioli, the traditional Italian pasta and beans soup, is thick and delicious. Using an Instant Pot speeds it up!
Since the weather got cooler, I’ve been making a lot more soups and stews. And since I’ve been test-driving a new Instant Pot (more about that in an upcoming post), I’ve been pressure cooking a lot of dried beans. So it was only natural to use my new gadget to make a soup/stew starting with dried beans. But don’t worry–you don’t have to have a pressure cooker to make this thick, Italian-inspired soup because I’ll tell you how to make it in either a pressure cooker or in a regular pot on the stove.
I’ve had these beautiful cranberry beans sitting in a jar in my kitchen for a while, and though they make for an attractive decoration, beans do get old and should be used before they’re eligible for social security. So when I saw a Food Network recipe for Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli, I knew I had to make–and veganize–it. And pressure cookerize it. And fatfree-ize it. You get the picture. By the time I got through doing all that and doubling the amount of beans, it wasn’t much like the original. But it was delicious.
You don’t have to go searching for cranberry beans if you don’t have them because this recipe works just as well with pinto beans (cranberry beans have a slightly nuttier flavor, but with all the other flavors in this soup, I doubt you’ll notice). I used whole wheat pasta, but any pasta, including gluten-free, will do. I also used tomatoes from a box to avoid BPA, but you could use one of those big cans of tomatoes if you prefer. And I have a big rosemary bush right outside my kitchen window, so using fresh is easy for me, but you could always substitute dried.
I was actually very surprised at how much my family loved this dish. I’ve made other “pasta and beans” dishes, but this is one of the few times I’ve started with dried beans, and I really think it makes a difference. Lately it can be hard to get my daughter to eat beans, other than chickpeas, so I was thrilled when she liked this so much. I served it with a large chopped salad and that was all we needed for a hearty meal.
Be sure to check out my other pressure cooker recipes, all of which can be cooked in an electric or traditional pressure cooker.
Pasta Fagioli with Cranberry Beans and Kale
- 2 cups dried cranberry beans, borlotti beans, or pinto beans soaked for at least an hour–see step 1
- 1 medium onion chopped
- 2 ribs celery chopped
- 7 cloves garlic minced and divided
- 1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, minced or 1/2 tsp. dried
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 26 ounces chopped tomatoes canned
- 3 teaspoons dried basil leaves divided
- 2 teaspoons dried oregano divided
- 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 2 teaspoons salt optional or to taste
- 2 cups small pasta (whole grain or gluten-free preferred)
- 10 ounces kale (4-6 cups chopped, stems removed and leaves chopped)
- 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
- freshly-ground black pepper to taste
- At least an hour before cooking: Check the beans for rocks and other debris and rinse them well. Then do a quick soak by placing the beans in a pot or pressure cooker, covering with 2 inches of water, and bringing to a boil. Boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and let stand for at least 1 hour. Drain well and rinse. Set aside. (Alternately, soak overnight, drain well, and rinse.)
- Heat your pressure cooker (use the Sauté or Brown button on electric PC’s). Add the onion and a pinch of baking soda (optional) and cook until it begins to soften, adding water by the tablespoon if necessary to prevent sticking. Add the celery, half of the garlic, the rosemary, and the red pepper flakes and cook for another 2 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of basil, 1 teaspoon oregano, and the smoked paprika. Heat, stirring, until hot.
- Add the drained beans, 6 cups of water or vegetable broth, and salt, if you desire. Lock the lid in place, bring to high pressure, and cook at high pressure for 10 minutes. (Electric PC’s: select Manual and set the time to 10 minutes.) After 10 minutes at high pressure, remove from heat or turn off electric cooker and allow the pressure to come down naturally for 15 minutes. Release all pressure using a quick release. Carefully open the lid and check the beans. If they are not all completely softened and cooked, replace the lid and bring to high pressure for another minute or two. Quick-release pressure and check beans again. Do this until the beans are all tender.
- Once the beans are done, add the reserved garlic, basil, and oregano and check to see if additional salt is needed. Add the pasta and return to medium heat (electric PC–use Sauté or Brown setting). Cook, stirring frequently, until the pasta is almost al dente–just a touch undercooked. Stir in the kale, turn off the heat, and cover the cooker. Allow the kale to cook in the residual heat for about 5 minutes. Check kale and pasta for tenderness and add more time if needed. Stir in nutritional yeast and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve.
Follow the directions in steps 1 through 3, using a large, heavy pot. Then add the dried beans, salt, and 8 cups of water or broth. Cover and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low and simmer until beans are tender, adding more water if necessary. Allow 1 1/2 to 2 hours for beans to cook. Uncover the pot and bring back to a boil. Add the pasta and reserved seasonings and check the liquid level–there should be enough to cover the pasta completely; if not, add more. Cook until pasta is al dente. Add the kale, cover the pot, and cook on low for 3-5 minutes. Add nutritional yeast and black pepper to taste.
Nutritional info is approximate.
A Note About Nutritional Yeast
Nutritional yeast gives this soup a savory umami flavor that replaces the Parmesan cheese used in traditional Pasta Fagioli recipes. But it has come to my attention that there have been studies (such as this one and this one) that raise the concern that high amounts of synthetic folic acid may increase the risk of breast cancer.
Most brands of nutritional yeast do contain added folic acid in varying amounts, and while using a little every now and then is probably not a problem, if you use a lot, you may want to read labels carefully and choose brands that contain as little folic acid as possible. For the past few months, I have been using Foods Alive brand, and I like it a lot. Plus, it’s less expensive than Sari Foods, the other popular unfortified nutritional yeast.
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ChanaOctober 1, 2017 at 2:16 pm
This is hands down one of the BEST soups I have ever eaten! Seriously. This has definitely gone into my staples/will make often favorites! THANK YOU for sharing this!
P. NunezOctober 10, 2017 at 4:28 pm
I use Sari Foods Company Natural Non-fortified Nutritional Yeast Flakes, from Amazon. It tastes very good, and does not contain Folic Acid. I haven’t tried the soup recipe, but plan to. Sounds delicious.
Shelly RonaldOctober 11, 2017 at 6:40 pm
Thanks for this fantastic recipe, Susan. I made it as is – other than adding a zucchini. Easy to prepare, and top marks for flavour. S
EJOctober 14, 2017 at 9:21 am
Thank you for this yummy dish. We had this for dinner last night and it was a big hit. I will definitely add this to my IP file.
Evelyn Ashton-JonesDecember 11, 2017 at 9:19 am
I can’t quit making this soup! It is delicious, especially during the cold weather we’re experiencing in Louisiana. Thanks, Susan!
alan slimmDecember 14, 2017 at 8:29 pm
Nice original recipe,combine pasta and beans is quite popular in many countries but this way to do it is very different.
OffBeatAJApril 10, 2018 at 7:12 pm
Love this soup! I used chickpea pasta and added it to the PC for 3 min at high pressure at end with the kale and it turned out perfectly! Thank you!!
TeresaJune 18, 2018 at 3:07 am
I just made this recipe….. again! Every time I make it, my family raves about it. It has been a good year since my last batch, as I moved to NZ at the end of US Fall which is NZ Spring, and this has always been a Winter comfort dish. As I sat freezing in my lounge this morning, I suddenly had the motivation to make it till dinner, because I remembered this soup. It is just so good, and my family once again remarked at how good it is. I cheated today and used canned chickpeas – added them after I pressure cooked the broth for only 3 mins, since there were no beans to cook. Thank you for such a great recipe, and for helping me get through a cold, wet day.
DebSeptember 25, 2018 at 9:39 pm
Oh my goodness! I made this for dinner this past weekend and we just loved it. A nice hearty soup that I will definitely be making again. Thank you for sharing this.
CassieNovember 30, 2018 at 3:52 am
I loved this dish so much! I never soak my own beans, but I did this time and it was so easy! I will definitely make this again, thank you! For some reason, I can’t click the 5-star rating but I definitely give it 5 stars 🙂
dmitriNovember 13, 2019 at 5:40 pm
Yummy! I hate kale (it’s too strong to my taste and the texture is weird) so I used some shredded green cabbage (I put it in the same time as the pasta),,.and nutritional yeast always tastes like fee to me,, so I used just one tablespoon;; enough for that sumpin’-sumpin’ but not enough to be all “Ugh, there’s nooch in here!”. I don’t know if it was the cabbage but the soup was very thick, more like a stew, so next time I’ll use an extra cup or two of broth. I was planning on putting in a diced carrot but glad now that I forgot it, seeing as how thick it turned out. Maybe with the extra water, I can put it in.
Andrea T.December 3, 2019 at 1:30 pm
My only recollection of Pasta Fagioli was that made by my 85 year old Italian mother-in-law, so I was skeptical about trying this recipe. I bought cranberry beans, soaked them overnight during our first huge snowstorm of the season. I followed the recipe exactly and the results were reminiscent of Nanna’s soup that she would package in Mason jars and send home with us after a snowy visit. The addition of kale in Susan’s recipe does not alter the traditional earthy flavor, but does add a pleasant brightness of color. I am glad I took the time to go out and buy the cranberry beans. Thank you Susan !!
Patti McGuireDecember 14, 2019 at 11:08 pm
I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this soup! I have never come across the cranberry beans (I just used canned pinto beans instead) but that does not alter the awesomeness of this soup. The broth is so flavorful. I make vegan parmesan cheese on top and I’m in heaven.
RichardJanuary 2, 2020 at 6:17 pm
This is hands down one of the best vegan soup recipes that I’ve made. Absolutely delicious.
AliJanuary 14, 2020 at 1:50 am
This soup is amazing, it is the first recipe I have made from this web-site and I loved it! I had run out of basil so subbed thyme instead. Absolutely delicious – recipes like these show how delicious food can still be without oil. Can’t wait to try out others.
RobinFebruary 28, 2020 at 10:09 am
Loved this recipe!! When I would reheat a bowl, I would heat up some veggie broth, add more kale, then add the soup as it was pretty thick but I couldnt stop eating it!!
Donna WeifertMay 13, 2020 at 9:30 pm
I made this again tonight in the Instant Pot and it was totally delicious! My 93 yr old father had two bowls!
Patty SterkowitzAugust 15, 2020 at 11:49 am
I can only say ‘Wow!’ Our family loves this soup. My only changes were to add the tomatoes after cooking the beans and to pressure cook the pasta instead of using the sauté setting. On my next batch, I plan to cook the beans without soaking first, following cook time recommendations Of around 35 minutes.
Other than that, the soup has a wonderful, hearty flavor.
linda cadleAugust 20, 2020 at 2:19 pm
I will give this recipe a go. ;). I have a question about making this dish in slow cooker?
Susan VoisinAugust 20, 2020 at 2:22 pm
I’ve never made it in a slow cooker, so I don’t really know the details. I’ll bet if you google “cranberry beans slow cooker” you could find the right setting and time to use.
ClaireJuly 15, 2021 at 2:28 pm
This is incredible! First meal I’ve cooked in my instant pot and I’m so happy. I added a carrot at the start, I used dried italian seasoning, and a tin of tomatoes with basil, and I added ancho chilli flakes as well as normal (then realised I had no paprika! But it was good without). Anyway, best dish ever, thank you so much for making me love cooking again
MaryJanuary 5, 2022 at 1:40 pm
Can you sub spinach for kale?
Susan VoisinJanuary 5, 2022 at 11:06 pm
Sure! Spinach cooks much faster, so just add it right before serving.
KarenMarch 16, 2022 at 7:26 am
Are beans measured before or after soaking? I forgot how much they expand!
Susan VoisinMarch 16, 2022 at 4:23 pm
The beans are measured before soaking.
JackieFebruary 9, 2023 at 7:01 pm
Fantastic! I did the initial saute step in a frying pan because my Instant Pot never fails to burn my food if I saute before using the pressure cook function, but I followed the directions for the rest of the steps. This was one of the most amazing soups I’ve ever made, and I make a lot of soups! I used Rancho Gordo cranberry beans (thanks, Bean Club!) and some odds and ends of partially empty elbow macaroni bags. This soup is sooo delicious it is dangerous! I probaby ate too much of it. Some of my beans cooked down and made a thick broth. I had bread with it, but the soup was so thick there wasn’t a lot of broth to soak up. I will DEFINITELY make this again. Absolutely the best thing I ever did with my Instant Pot.