Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli (Small Batch) & Finding Clovers


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Yesterday I came in from the back yard with a hand full of four leaf clovers…

You know, some people think that four leaf clovers are hard to find but when I was a little girl my mother could always walk right up to a clover patch, look down for a few seconds, and pluck one right up.

It seemed she had a special gift for finding clovers, and as I grew older I came to realize she had a special gift for finding a lot of good things. In the middle of the worst storm, Mama could find a song to sing. When we came home with a bad hair cut, Mama could point out the one thing that made it just perfect and turn everyone’s opinion right around. When our school friends went away on trips we could never afford, Mama would invite all the neighborhood kids over to play in our back yard and fill our days with homemade popsicles and hosepipe tag.

She could find good in any situation as easily as looking down at a patch of hundreds of clovers and plucking out the one with four leaves on it.

I spent my childhood looking to her as my example and this morning, I got to thinking about those clovers and how much better I am at finding them now that I’m older. Now, when I walk outside and come back in with a handful of four leaf clovers my daughter exclaims with delight that I must be really good at finding them! I just smile and tell her that they’re there for anyone who looks. Like the special little moments in life, pockets of happiness, and reasons to be grateful.

Four leaf clovers aren’t rare. The people who take time to look for them are.

~takes a moment to look at the picture and let it sink in~

Alrighty, time to package my heart back up and get on to the cooking!

If you’ve never had this soup, you’re in for a treat and a half. It’s kind of like an Italian version of chili – and my family LOVES it!

There are all sorts of variations of Pasta Fagoli out there. Translated from Italian, it simply means “Pasta and Beans” and is traditionally an economical meatless dish. I like to add meat to mine but you can certainly leave it out.

I was originally inspired to make it due to my favorite soup, salad, and breadsticks treat at the local Olive Garden. This is not the exact recipe Olive Garden uses, of course, but it  is close. This is also not the exact recipe found around the web, but it’s close enough to those, too. My recipe is a little more streamlined and makes about half as much as the other recipes do. My recipe makes about 4 quarts, which is a reasonable amount for a family. Leftovers reheat and even freeze really well, too.

You’ll need: Kidney Beans, Navy Beans, Beef Broth, Crushed Tomatoes, Tomato Sauce, Matchstick carrots (or carrots you cut yourself), diced onions, small ring pasta (or small pasta of your choice), and browned ground beef.

Note: I was tired the day I made this and decided to cook up some ground beef. As soon as I got it into the skillet I went and sat down to gift myself with a little time reading my latest Tamera Alexander novel…a while later I remembered my ground beef. Needless to say, it was a little overcooked but the beauty was that I was browning it for this recipe and since this is a slow cooked soup, that gives the overly cooked ground beef time to soften up a bit. Crisis averted. You know, really, most crises can be averted if we just refuse to let them become crisis in the first place, don’t you think?

You’re gonna need some seasonings, too. I’m using salt, dried parsley, and dried Italian seasoning.

Now if you’ve been with me a long time you may be thinking “Christy sure does use Italian seasoning a lot!”.

If you’re thinking that, you’re right.

I like it.

It’s good.

It’s cheap.

For me, it is the ketchup of dried herb blends! Having said that, if you would prefer to make it a little more complicated, feel free to come up with your own herb blend. I’m sure it will be great – or just give yourself a break and do it my way. It’s not like you don’t work hard enough as it is.

So basically, you dump everything in a slow cooker except for your pasta. I drained my beans but it’ll be just fine if you’d rather not.

Dump, dump, dump, dump, then….


Now put the lid on it and let it cook on low for 7-8 hours or on high for 3-4 hours.

About half an hour before serving, stir in your pasta and put the lid back on so it can get done.

Top it with fresh grated parmesan if you want or just go my route and use some mozzarella. There is no rule that says you can’t use whatever cheese your heart desires – and if you find that rule written somewhere, just go ahead and break it.

C’mon, be a rebel with me. :) Speaking of rebels, we should start our own gang. We can wear yoga pants and ride Schwinn’s – the kind with the big comfy seats, not those factory puppies that give you a total of two square inches to balance your entire body weight on. We’ll get those little horns that honk like we had when were were kids and big tall flags to go on the back of our bikes so when we’re about to crest a hill, the kids will know we’re a coming! I used to have a battery operated loudspeaker on my bicycle with a little cb type handset that let me talk to people as I passed and that could come in real handy, too. “Hey Amy! What’s for supper?” as we drive by a friend’s house. Or the occasional “EHHH!” really loud if we see a kid, dog, or random person about to do something they should know better than to do. ~giggles~ That would be fun. Remind me to start a gang in my spare time. Y’all go ahead and pick out a name...

Oh look, our soup is done! If there are any leftovers, they refrigerate and even freeze well. I thought I’d have leftovers from this but after teenage son ate two bowls and husband ate three…then I myself came back for another bowl…it disappeared pretty fast.

Slow Cooker Pasta Fagioli (Small Batch)
  • 1 pound ground beef (or Italian sausage), browned and drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 1 cup matchstick carrots (or 1 cup finely diced carrots)
  • 28 ounce can crushed tomatoes
  • 15 ounce can tomato sauce
  • 15 ounce can kidney beans, drained
  • 15 ounce can navy or Cannelloni or navy beans, drained
  • 15 ounce can beef stock
  • 2 tablespoons italian seasoning
  • 1 tablespoon dried parsley
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 cup dried pasta, I'm using little rings.
  1. Place everything but the pasta into a 5-6 quart slow cooker and stir to combine. Cover with lid and cook on low, 7-8 hours or high, 3-4 hours.
  2. Thirty minutes before serving, stir in pasta and cover again until pasta is done (about 20 minutes).
  3. Serve topped with shredded cheese if you like.
To make on stove top, combine all ingredients except for pasta. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, stirring often. Reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, 30 minutes, stirring from time to time. Add pasta and continue to cook for 15 minutes more, or until pasta is done.
Makes about 4 quarts.

How many does it serve? Well that depends. If you are a hungry NFL football player, this serves one. If you are a 90 pound woman who eats like bird, this serves 20-25. If you are a family of five who loves a good hearty soup, this will serve about 5. Serving amount is terribly relative and always a best guess either way you go so just grab a bowl and dig in!


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        • Laura says

          Hahahahaha! This is funny to me…my Italian grandmother & great grandmother often made this, but the thing is, in Italian families, pasta e fagioli is a MEATLESS dish…no meat at all, neither chicken or turkey, beef nor pork. It is about the cheapest, healthiest thing there is, and you can certainly eat it with a sandwich that has meat in it…but no, I never heard of anyone putting meat in it until the Olive Garden Restaurants opened. BTW Christy, love this site & all the wonderful recipes you have on here! I’ve made quite a few!!!

  1. Chris A. says

    Christy, I have been searching for someone else to read. Could you recommend any of Tamera Alexander’s books for me? I am not familiar with her! And I can’t wait to try this recipe! I will try it with the Quinoa/corn pasta I usually use in your Country Casserole recipe!

  2. Debbie Strum says

    Since we’re chili and spaghetti fans around here, this recipe is right up our alley and down our street. The name first name that came to mind for your gang was, Christy’s Southern Sisters, but that doesn’t sound like a name that would include our Southern Plate brothers!! I’m sure others will come up with some great suggestions, though! Will be giving this soup a try VERY soon!!

  3. Karen says

    This is so funny! My son is sick (not funny) and I was asking him what type of soup he wanted. He said this Pasta Fagoli! And this was waiting in my email! Thanks you so much! He will be happy and hopefully felling a little better with this soup.

  4. Pamela says

    Oh my, this looks delicious! I have already adopted your chili recipe and made
    it my own. It’s the best chili I’ve ever had!

    I’d love to join your “gang” if I only lived close enough to participate :(
    I think I’d save my pennies and buy one of those three-wheeled trikes. They
    look so fun and I could put all kinds of decorations all over it. Probably
    ending up looking like I belonged in a parade instead of a “gang” :)
    Oh well, I can dream………..

    My Mom was also one of those that could just look down and find a four-leaf
    clover. As a kid, I’d get kinda irritated cause I could look forever and not find one!

    Oh, as for the name, how ’bout “The Sassy Southern Cyclers” (or bikers)


  5. Kathy says

    I have made this in a much more complicated version and have left out the meat, since it has so many beans in it as protein, I like that yours looks much simplier but just as yummy, since we have “meatless” once a week, sounds like this one needs to be tried out next week, thanks for the recipe.

  6. Rachel D. says

    Hey Christy – We love this soup too!!
    FYI – the white beans are cannellini (not cannoli, which is a dessert) – LOL!!
    Sometimes we use a jar of (or homemade) spaghetti sauce and a small can of diced or crushed tomatoes – just depends what is on hand.

  7. Wil Cooper says

    Christy, thank you for this recipe. It is raining here today so will not be doing some of the things on the ranch that need to get done but aren’t pressing. We are about finished with the spring calving now. I will be making this recipe for the weekend and keeping it warm in the slow cooker/crockpot for a quick lunch. I made some pickled onions a couple days ago and I like vinegary foods so I will top this recipe with some pickled onions with or without the cheese topping. I also may ad a little bit of vinegar to the Fagoli as it is cooking. Thanks again.

  8. Deanna says

    I am gonna try this as soon as I can! It sounds great, and as usual, your post prior to the recipe lifted my spirits today. I really needed that since I have been stranded in an airport for 3 hours and so badly wanting to make it home today! Been on a two week business trip!

    Love you and your posts

  9. carol says

    I am soooo happy this is a beef recipe. I am allergic to all poultry and most seafood so its not easy to find great recipes , I have noticed that so many people post are a chicken based recipe. So thank you for this I will definitely be trying this one :)

  10. Val says

    Would be perfect for today but my husband wants pizza on Friday soooooooooooooo tomorrow, tomorrow!!!! lol Thanks so much for the recipe. I always order this at Olive Garden! Now I will fix it at home.

    A Bike Gang! Oh fun!! Where shall we all meet? Pedal pushers and keds! Do we bring a covered dish?? 😉

  11. Sharon says

    This is gonna be a big summertime helper. I hate heating up the kitchen when it’s a bazillion degrees outside (you know Southern summers, lol) so this slow cooker recipe will be a welcome relief. I like that I actually have most of the ingredients for your recipes. Don’t like buying one specific herb or food I’ll probably never use again. Please keep giving us the slow cooker recipes. Oh,
    my suggested name for the bike gang is “Christy’s Cruisers”.

  12. Jeanette Wood says

    I could hardly focus on the recipe for worrying about hosepipe tag. What is it? Can I still ‘join the gang’ ? I have yoga pants and love fat seats on bikes. Who ever designed those slivered bike seats anyway? ~giggles~

  13. says

    We have a soup lunch after church once a month and this is what I’ll be fixing for the next one!! Love it at Olive Garden but the closest one is 80 miles away so I don’t get it very often any more…but thanks to you, I’ll get to have it any time I want!! Now to find some small, whole grain pasta!!

  14. Sandra O'Quinn says

    Can’t wait ti try this soup. I also wanted to let you know that I copied the picture and script of the four-leaf clovers and shared them on my Facebook page – hope you don’t mind.

  15. Linda Kirby says

    My Mom was exactly the same way with finding four leaf clovers. Us (9) kids rarely found them but it was a common thing for my Mom. She passed away in February of 2011. The grass didn’t grow very good at her gravesite the first year but last year it was almost completely covered with clover. Couldn’t help but make me smile. I’m sure there was a few four leaf clovers hiding in there.
    My husband passed away seven months after my Mom and can’t tell you how many times your newsletter with your writings has blessed me and made me feel a little better.
    Thank you so much, Linda

  16. Dena says

    My husband loves the pasta fagioli from that “place”, it’s the only reason we go there. We prefer to get our Italian food at a local Italian place. I can’t wait to make this for him.

  17. Linda says

    Hello Christy thank you so much for the recipe this is one of my favorite soups. When ever I go to Olive Garden always get the soup and salad so I can have several bowls of this. I have been looking for a simple recipe. And I love using the crock pot. Thank you Thank you

  18. Denise says

    Thank you Christy for another great recipe that I am going to try this week. Where did you buy the Creamette rings? I live in AL too and have never been able to find them here. When my Mom comes to visit from MN she usually brings me a couple boxes. Looking forward to your next email.

  19. Susan N says

    Looks so good Christi. I have used up leftover pasta & meat sauce to put together a similar soup.
    My name could be soup lady. LOVE making it Even in summer, some fresh veg or tortilla soup still seem good to me. When going out and trying out restaurant tortilla soup, ya find that homemade is always best.
    ^5 again girl, good job!

  20. BethSherrill says

    Made it tonight! super yummy! makes me sad that soon it will be too warm for soup till fall, don’t want to forget this recipe before fall! I made mine on the stove simmering for a couple hours. I also added a can of tomato juice when it got a little too thick, awesome meal.

  21. Penny Wolf says

    We were taught to never look for the 4 leaf clover and to find them as you described your Mother doing. You just open the car door or happen to look down and there it is. No combing the yard, the magic or luck of them is lost that way. 5 leaf is bad luck so I’m told. Looks as though you have some pretty good luck with or with out the clover! :)

    Great recipe, thanks.

  22. Lesley says

    Christy, I made this last night. It was FABULOUS! Thanks so much for the simple recipe.

    In addition to the diced onions and carrots, I added some diced celery and bell peppers that were wilting in the fridge. Plus a heaping scoop of minced garlic! Sauteed all the veggies in the meat drippings before dropping them in the pot. Yum!

  23. MaryAnne Keough says

    Wow- this looks really good. We have lots of ground deer meat and this will be a good way to use some. (My son says that country people say deer meat and city people say venison.) I will be trying this very soon. I buy Italian seasoning in bulk, it is one of my favorites. I also crush up a little fennel to make it extra italian. Big Lots has had some great Hunts Diced tomatoes with Fennel and red pepper that really add a lot to any dish. Love your recipes. I am so glad my son gave me your book for Mothers Day, that is how I found you.!

  24. Betty819 says

    This recipe sounds wonderful; I love Homemade Vegetable beef soup but I end up eating it all by myself. I would have never thought about putting the carrott matchsticks in, saves peeling and slicing raw carrotts. Is there a reason you used “crushed tomaotes>” Just curious; I always use diced canned tomatoes in my soup. My MIl always used short ribs for her homemade vegetable soup so that’s what I use but very expensive anymore and you don’t get a lot of meat and more greasy. What other beef cubes could one use? Chuck?

    Dropped in to check out the New Wegman’s yesterday. Wow! You could spend 1/2 day in there but next time, I’m riding one of those electric carts! I can’t walk these large stores anymore ; my pinched nerve in buttock starts acting up and my thigh becomes numb. Beautiful produce and meats..but found them to be a little bit expensive. Would not go that far to go to grocery store..about 15 miles..have a Giant less than a mile from us, plus within 3 1/2 miles,4 other grocery store chains. Love Harris Teeter!

    • says

      ~giggles~ The ONLY reason that I used crushed tomatoes is so that my family (who thinks they don’t like tomatoes) will eat it. I personally like to use diced tomatoes but if I use them my family will turn their nose up, with crushed tomatoes they don’t realize what they are eating and gobble it up happily.

  25. Patty says

    How interesting you write about finding 4 leaf clovers. As a young girl I often looked for them and one year found 52! I sealed them in scotch tape to save them. Now I’m mostly in a power chair and in my 70’s and occasionally stop at a patch of clover to see if any are visible. Silly grandma. lol

  26. Pam Elkin says

    The recipe sounds great, as always. Must try.

    Thank you for the wonderful, encouraging words about the 4 leaf clovers. Wonderful message.

    Be safe in your travels for your cookbook tour!


  27. Paul says

    This is great! I’m a single guy so I like to cook batches of stuff and then freeze to eat during the week. This recipe works out really well on the stovetop as well (I don’t have a big slow cooker) and gives me about 6 meals. Very tasty and healthy as well!

  28. Jan G says

    First, love this recipe, was just thinking about this soup as a friend of mine was mentioning so will make for her.
    Your mum Christy and my dad, always when we would be together and taking a break, or he was just walking by a clover patch, would always look down, reach down and find me another 4 leaf clover. I could lay there for an hour before I found my first one. Have many saved and always kept them in wax paper all taped up and with me if possible. Many years have now passed and I occasionally run across one of those, all dried and crumbled now but still bring a smile to my face and treasure yet those he found and gave me. Your 4 leaf clovers have brought back so many memories and for that I thank you very much.
    Will be making your soup and let you know how it goes over, she does not eat meat so will have to leave that out but am sure it will be delicious. Thank you again for all you share.

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