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Whole-Grain Pasta e Fagioli with Butternut Squash and Sage Pesto

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Serves 4 to 6

Whole-grain orecchiette or shells star in this makeover of a classic Italian pasta and bean soup. With butternut squash, borlotti beans, and a bright sage pesto, it’s perfect for a chilly autumn evening.

For the soup
  • Fine sea salt
  • 6 oz. whole-grain orecchiette, small shells, or other small pasta
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped yellow onion (about 1 small)
  • 2-1/2 cups diced (1/2 to 3/4 inch) butternut squash
  • 2 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. chopped fresh sage
  • 2 medium cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • 2 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 4 cups lower-salt chicken or vegetable broth
  • 1 15-oz. can borlotti (or cranberry or Roman) beans, rinsed and drained (1-3/4 cups)
  • 1 14-oz. can whole peeled tomatoes with juice, crushed
  • Freshly ground black pepper
For the pesto
  • 1 packed cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, coarsely chopped
  • 2 to 3 Tbs. coarsely chopped fresh sage
  • 1 medium clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 oz. Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano, coarsely grated on the large holes of box grater (1/2 cup); more, finely grated, for serving
  • Fine sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil; more as needed
Make the soup

Bring a large pot of well-salted water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package directions until not quite al dente.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 5- to 6-quart Dutch oven or other heavy-duty pot over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and 1/4 tsp. salt; cook, stirring occasionally, until starting to brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Add the squash and stir to coat with the oil. Add the parsley, sage, garlic, and pepper flakes, if using, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the tomato paste and cook, stirring, until it is evenly distributed and looks slightly darker, 1 to 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook until almost evaporated, about 1 minute. Add the broth, beans, and tomatoes. Stir well, scraping the bottom of the pot, and simmer until the squash is barely tender, 13 to 15 minutes. Add the pasta and continue simmering until the squash and pasta are tender, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Make the pesto and serve

Put the parsley, sage, garlic, and coarsely grated cheese in a food processor. Sprinkle with 1/4 tsp. salt and 1/4 tsp. pepper and drizzle with the oil. Pulse until finely chopped, adding more oil if necessary to give it a saucy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and transfer to a bowl.

Thin the soup with water if desired and add 1/4 tsp. pepper. Season to taste with more salt and pepper. Divide among soup bowls and spoon 1 to 2 Tbs. pesto on top of each serving. Pass the finely grated cheese at the table.

nutrition information (per serving):
Calories (kcal): 450, Fat Calories (kcal): 190, Fat (g): 21, Saturated Fat (g): 3.5, Polyunsaturated Fat (g): 2.5, Monounsaturated Fat (g): 14, Cholesterol (mg): 5, Sodium (mg): 1190, Carbohydrates (g): 50, Fiber (g): 8, Sugar (g): 6, Protein (g): 15

Photo: Scott Phillips

Made this tonight because I was looking for a hearty soup to make. I used white orrecheitte pasta because that is what I had in the house. Also, I used white kidney beans also because that was what I had on hand. The soup was delicious and we all loved the pesto. Served the soup with a homemade rye bread. Yum!

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