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Italian Bean Soup with Mini-Meatballs

Italian Bean Soup with Mini-Meatballs.  I intentionally did not call this a recipe for Pasta e fagioli, although it was clearly my inspiration.  Pasta e fagioli is traditionally a meatless dish, comprised of pasta and beans in a tomato base.  When I did my standard recipe research I had a hard time avoiding the bazillion copycat recipes for Olive Garden’s Pasta e fagioli.  We may be the only family I know who has not had a bowl of Olive Garden’s Pasta e fagioli.  I’m sure it’s delicious but I chose not to compete with the masses.

Instead I’m delivering Italian Bean Soup with Mini-Meatballs, inspired by Pasta e fagioli AND the delicious Italian Meatballs we enjoyed for our Valentines Day dinner.  I think this was a combination of win.

Pasta e fagioli

I’ve made it known that I have a soft spot for meatballs.  In fact I’ve even shared with you my Food Truck Fantasy (Mobile Meatballs).  They seemed like a great combination with this tomato based soup.  I prebaked the meatballs for 10 minutes so they would firm up a bit and hold their shape when added to the soup.  They then completed their cooking nestled in the fabulous broth.

pasta e fagioli

Besides the white beans, the addition of small pasta, such as Ditalini is key in this soup.  I cooked the pasta separately and added it to individual serving bowls.  This way, if there were any leftovers, the pasta didn’t drink up all of our broth.  I’m delivering a bowl of Italian Bean Soup with Mini-Meatballs to one of my favorite taste-testers (who happens to be a big fan of Olive Garden’s Pasta e fagioli).  I’ll let her report back.

Pasta e fagioli

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Italian Bean Soup with Mini-Meatballs {Pasta e fagioli inspired}
Cook time
Total time
Serves: 6
For the meatballs...
  • ½ lb. ground beef
  • ½ lb. ground pork
  • 1 egg
  • ½ cup fresh bread crumbs
  • ¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 2 Tbl. cream
  • 1 Tbl. minced garlic
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 handful fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
For the soup...
  • 1 Tbl. olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 2 celery ribs, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 tsp. Mrs. Dash garlic & herb seasoning
  • ½ tsp. black pepper
  • 1 30-ounce can diced tomatoes
  • 1 cup Marinara or tomato sauce
  • 2 cups chicken or vegetable broth
  • 2 15-ounce cans white beans (such as Cannellini or Great Northern), drained and rinsed.
  • ½ lb. Ditalini dried pasta (or other small pasta)
To serve...
  • freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • fresh parsley
  • drizzle olive oil
For the meatballs...
  1. Line a shallow baking pan with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl combine all meatball ingredients, except meat. Add meat and gently mix until just combined. Form into small (3/4-inch diameter) meatballs, arrange on baking sheet. Should make 60 - 70 meatballs. Bake for 10 minutes and reserve. Meatballs will complete their cooking in the soup.
For the soup...
  1. Prepare pasta according to package instructions. Drain and reserve.
  2. In a Dutch oven, heat olive oil over medium heat. Add in onion, carrots and celery; sauté until tender about 10 minutes. Add in garlic and seasoning and cook an additional minute.
  3. Add diced tomatoes, tomato sauce and broth and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to medium-low. Add in drained beans and return to a simmer. Gently add meatballs to soup pot and simmer for 10 minutes.
To serve...
  1. Add a generous scoop of warm pasta to individual bowls, then cover with hot soup. Sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan cheese, fresh parsley and a drizzle of olive oil


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