Pasta Fagioli

Pasta Fagioli, simply “pasta and beans,” is a traditional Italian soup, big on flavor and nutrition. The simple pairing of beans and pasta – once referred to as peasant food –creates a dish that is easy to prepare and a welcome departure from the usual fare.

Although the carb-free fad left many Americans wary of pasta, whole-wheat varieties are a welcome pantry staple. A good source of fiber and B vitamins, whole-grain pasta provides complex carbohydrates, which help to sustain your energy.

Beans serve as another healthy carbohydrate choice. The cannellini bean used here, a type of white Italian kidney bean, are commonly used in minestrone soup recipes and bean salads. They are mild flavored and can be used interchangeably with Great Northern or navy beans. Be sure to drain and rinse the beans if using canned varieties to eliminate any additional sodium.

Fresh spinach and chopped celery enhance the nutritional value of the dish and add a burst of color to the soup. Spinach provides a rich source of folate and vitamins A, C and K, while celery offers added fiber and quercetin, a phytochemical that helps to reduce inflammation and may play a role in disease prevention.

After preparation is complete, serve immediately or the pasta tends to absorb much of the liquid. When using it for leftovers, simply add a little water and warm it up. Some people actually prefer it the next day because it gives the herbs and vegetables time to fully combine.

If you’d like, experiment with the recipe and substitute various types of pasta and beans to create a taste tailored to your liking. Serve the soup with crusty whole-wheat bread for dipping and top with a sprinkling of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Pasta Fagioli – Makes 6 servings.

1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
3 medium stalks celery, chopped 1/2-inch pieces
1 1/2 tsp. dried Italian seasoning
1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
Salt, to taste
1 (15 oz.) can reduced-sodium vegetable broth (or chicken broth)
1 (8 oz.) can reduced-sodium tomato sauce
2 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 cup uncooked whole-wheat rotini pasta
1/2 cup packed fresh spinach, chopped
1 (15 oz.) can unsalted cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
2 tsp. dried parsley
2 Tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Heat oil in large saucepan. Cook onion, garlic, celery, Italian seasoning, red pepper and salt until onions are tender. Stir in broth, tomato sauce and tomatoes. Reduce heat to low and simmer approximately 20 minutes.

Add pasta and cook until tender according to package directions. Add spinach, beans and parsley. Stir gently for a few minutes until spinach wilts and mixture is heated through. Serve with grated cheese on top.

Per serving: 180 calories, 4 g fat (<1 g saturated fat), 30 g carbohydrate, 8 g protein, 6 g dietary fiber, 360 mg sodium.

The Author:

The American Institute for Cancer Research (AICR) is the cancer charity that fosters research on the relationship of nutrition, physical activity and weight management to cancer risk, interprets the scientific literature and educates the public about the results. It has contributed more than $86 million for innovative research conducted at universities, hospitals and research centers across the country. AICR has published two landmark reports that interpret the accumulated research in the field, and is committed to a process of continuous review. AICR also provides a wide range of educational programs to help millions of Americans learn to make dietary changes for lower cancer risk. Its award-winning New American Plate program is presented in brochures, seminars and on its website, AICR is a member of the World Cancer Research Fund International.

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