It can be tough to find dishes that, at their roots, are meatless. Oftentimes we vegetarian recipe developers find ourselves busily creating meat-free versions of meaty favorites.
But pasta e fagioli – which literally translates to “pasta and beans” – is an Italian peasant dish traditionally made with inexpensive, vegetarian ingredients. So I added meat to half of it. I’m so difficult that way.
I’ve been wanting to adapt pasta e fagioli for the Crock Pot for awhile, and this Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup seemed like a natural variation. Sturdy kidney beans, carrots, and cabbage mingle with tomatoes and Italian-seasoned veggie broth for a warm, comforting dinner.
If your garden’s overflowing (finally!) with zucchini like ours is, you might throw some of that in there, too.
A little pasta and, if you desire, cooked ground beef thrown in to a portion at the end for the meat-eaters, and you’re good to go.
Something for everyone.
There’s a school of thought out there that onion and garlic should be sauteed before being added to the slow cooker, because sometimes the end result can taste funny. I’ve spent a fair (possibly embarrassing) amount of time pondering and testing this. Because why add that extra work to slow cooker recipe preparation if it’s not necessary?
My conclusion is that for most super-hearty chilis and stews, a quick pre-saute isn’t necessary. But for brothy soups or recipes where very developed flavors and spices are important, it can make a difference. Although the biggest difference is the smell! When you add the onion and garlic raw, when you lift that lid toward the end of the process, your food can smell a little funky. Not bad! But you can just tell if you didn’t cook it up first. It still tastes okay, though – the flavors just aren’t quite as developed.
For this soup, I actually made two versions at the same time – one with pre-cooked onions and garlic, and one where I just dumped everything in. Then my guy and I did a little taste test. I preferred the one with sauteed onion – but I also knew which one it was, so it could have been mental. My guy went in blind – he had no idea which was which – and he slightly preferred the one that started with raw onions!
So I wrote this recipe to include the saute at the beginning of the process – but if you’d rather dump ’em in raw, it won’t make a huge difference in the end result.
Slow Cooker Vegetarian Pasta e Fagioli Soup (with Optional Ground Beef)
- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 1 medium onion (diced)
- 2 medium cloves garlic (minced)
- 2 teaspoons Italian seasoning
- 1/2 teaspon kosher salt
- 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black poepper
- 4 cups vegetable broth
- 1/2 small green cabbage (finely chopped (4 cups))
- 3 medium carrots (peeled and diced (1 cup))
- 1 medium zucchini (diced (optional))
- 1 15-ounce can kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
- 1 cup small pasta of your choice
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Additional salt and pepper to taste
- Optional toppings: Fresh basil and/or parsley (drizzle of olive oil, shredded Parmesan cheese)
If adding ground beef to half:
- 1/2 pound lean ground beef
If adding ground beef to all:
- 1 pound lean ground beef
- Drizzle the olive oil into a large saute pan set over medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic, Italian seasoning, salt, and pepper and cook, stirring once or twice, for 1 minute. Splash in about 1/2 cup of the vegetable broth and scrape up any bits that are stuck to the bottom of the pan. Pour into slow cooker.
- To the slow cooker, add remaining vegetable broth, cabbage, carrots, zucchini if using, beans, and tomatoes. (If you're adding 1 pound ground beef to the entire batch, you can cook and drain ground beef well and add it now.) Cook for 8 hours on low (5-6 hours on high should also do the trick).
- 30 minutes before the cooking process ends, add pasta and put lid back on the Crock Pot.* Continue cooking on low until tender.
- *At this point, if you're adding ground beef to half, set a large saucepan over medium heat, add the 1/2 pound ground beef, and cook, stirring occasionally, until cooked through, 10-15 minutes. Drain any excess fat. Transfer a little less than half the soup to the pan with the ground beef and let simmer, covered, until pasta is completely tender and soup is heated through.
- Stir in red wine vinegar (divide between separate pots if doing the half-meaty version) and taste. Add additional salt and pepper if desired.
- Serve topped with chopped parsley and/or basil, a drizzle of olive oil, and pass with Parmesan cheese if desired.
I never thought to brighten up my slow cooking dishes with red wine vinegar. What an awesome tip! Thanks – I can’t believe it’s almost stews and soup season!!
Love how easy this pulls together, and has such a variety of delicious flavors! Crock pot recipes are totally the best. Need to try this one. Pinned!
This is my kind of soup. I love everything about it!
So my husband loathes kidney beans. He is a lover of all other beans, but his mother ruined him on kidney beans as a child. 😉 What would be your 2nd choice for beans here?
I think cannellini beans would be fabulous!
Oh Karen, this looks like fall! I’m loving all the veggies, beans and the warmth of this stew/soup. I had no idea what pasta e fagioli was until just now! Why, thank you! And thank you for sharing this beautiful recipe!
Hope to meet you at the IFBC!!
Looks great! Reminds me of a soup my mom made lots when I was a kid. It was my fav. Yummy!
Maybe I’m crazy, but I thought pasta e fagioli should have tomatoes in it. I don’t see any tomatoes listed in the ingredients or in the instructions. What tomatoes do you suggest using and when should I throw them in the crock pot? Thanks!
Hi Carly, I have two answers: 1) No, not all pasta e fagioli has tomatoes in it, actually! However 2) This one does, and I left it out of the list of ingredients! Oops. 🙁 So sorry about that. I used one 14-ounce can of diced tomatoes, and I’m fixing the recipe now. You just add them, juices and all, to the Crock Pot at the same time as the beans. Thank you SO much for asking about this.
Do you cook the pasta prior to adding 30 minutes before? Or do you throw it in raw, which would be great if it works, I would hate to have hard pasta so I need to know. Thanks in advance.
Nope, just throw the pasta in raw! It cooks up right in the soup.
Sounds delicious. I love any combo or meat, tomatoes and pasta. 🙂
Great receipt except Italians use the traditional receipe uses Cannellini beans not kidney beans and through in a fresh sprig of Rosemary. This is true Italian Pasta and Beans. My Italian mother made it every Sunday.
To Carly yes traditional “real” Italian pasta and beans use tomatoes. But then when you get non-Italians cooking Italian food they seem to really stray from the original and destroy a classic. Sorry. I’m a proud Italian.
Wondering if this would be good to make ahead and freeze?
I’ve made this as a freezer meal and I freeze it BEFORE adding the pasta. Then, when it’s warming up, add the pasta then. Otherwise the pasta gets gross and mushy in the freezer. Hope that helps!
I just want to say I’ve just found your blog and it’s brilliant. We’re a family of meat-eaters but have a vegan aupair this year. I’ve been adapting recipes on my own but coming up to winter I’m loving all the adaptable slow cooker meals. Brilliant!
Thank you so much, Angela!
Is nutrition info available, or am I overlooking it?
It is delicious, by the way
Hi, I am going back and adding nutrition info to every recipe but it’s taking me some time, unfortunately! Sorry! I recommend plugging the URL or list of ingredients into the recipe calculator at MyFitnessPal.com.