Pasta e Fagioli al Forno — Learn how to make this classic, Italian, comfort-food pasta recipe at home in just one hour! Chock full of juicy Italian sausage, tender penne pasta and cannellini beans, and a rich homemade red sauce with fabulous depth of flavor! Plus there are three types of cheeses used in this family-favorite recipe everyone will be begging you to make again!
Pasta e Fagioli al Forno Recipe
If you’ve ever been wondering how to create restaurant-quality pasta al forno at home, look no further than my very approachable recipe!
Just follow my straightforward steps and you will be recreating this traditional Italian recipe in no time. Actually, your Italian masterpiece is ready in just one hour.
There’s juicy ground Italian sausage with tender sautéed onions, carrots, and garlic plus plenty of fragrant herbs and spices including oregano, rosemary, and thyme.
Everything is mixed with plum tomatoes, tomato paste, and al dente-cooked penne pasta before adding cannellini beans and optional white wine. Cannellini beans (fagioli) are a hallmark ingredient in this comfort food classic Italian recipe.
Additionally, there is plenty of rich and gooey cheese including Parmesan and provolone in a creamy cheese sauce plus mozzarella which is sprinkled on top before everything bakes together.
Whether you want to serve your pasta e fagioli al forno for a special family dinner like a Sunday dinner or if you’re feeling like making a big batch of hearty comfort food during the week, your family and friends are going to be licking their plates clean!
Ingredients in Pasta Fagioli al Forno
There is a long list of ingredients in white bean pasta but all of them are easy to find and very common fridge and pantry ingredients including the following:
- Penne pasta
- Ground Italian sausage (regular or hot)
- Olive oil
- White or yellow onion
- Canned whole plum tomatoes such as San Marzano
- Tomato paste
- Cannellini beans
- White wine (0r broth)
- All-purpose flour
- Whole milk
- Grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- Shredded provolone or fontina cheese
- Shredded mozzarella cheese
Tip: Make sure scroll down to the recipe card section of the blog post where all ingredients are listed out and there are more specific directions.
How To Make Pasta e Fagioli al Forno
Making homemade pasta e fagioli al forno doesn’t need to be intimidating! Follow my straightforward steps as follows and you will be in pasta heaven:
Step 1: Preheat the oven to 400F and spray a 2 to 3-quart casserole dish or 9×13-pan with cooking spray.
Step 2: Boil the penne pasta, drain, rinse, and set aside.
Step 3: While the penne is boiling, separately saute the sausage in a deep, high-sided skillet until it’s no longer pink and set it aside.
Step 4: Add the olive oil to the same skillet along with the onions, celery, carrots and saute until the vegetables soften. Add the garlic in the final minute.
Step 5: Add the San Marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, herbs, salt, pepper, add the cooked sausage back in, and simmer for 10 minutes.
Step 6: Add the cannellini beans and optional wine, and simmer for 5 minutes.
Step 7: Separately, in a small skillet melt the butter, stir in the flour (you’re making a roux), and add the milk.
Step 8: Add the Parmesan, provolone, and stir until melted.
Step 9: Combine the cooked noodles, meat sauce, and cheese sauce before transferring into your prepared baking dish.
Step 10: Sprinkle with mozzarella and bake for 5 minutes or until the cheese is lightly browned before serving.
What Kind of Beans Should I Use in Italian Pasta al Forno?
When contemplating what type of beans to use for pasta e fagioli al forno, a white bean is the classic choice.
For example, cannellini beans are what I used but you can also use Great Northern beans or navy beans.
For those who may be wondering if they can omit the beans? Yes of course you can but the pasta e fagioli means pasta and beans so for a traditional dish, use beans.
However, omitting the beans is fine if that is your preference, knowing your dish wouldn’t be traditional.
What Kind of Cheeses Are Best for Penne al Forno?
For all you cheese lovers, including myself, this comforting pasta fagioli al forno recipe uses three types of cheese including the following:
- Freshly grated Parmesan cheese or Romano cheese.
- Grated provolone or fontina cheese.
- Shredded mozzarella cheese.
The Parm (or Romano) and provolone (or fontina) are used to create the cheese sauce that you mix with the pasta noodles.
Meanwhile the mozzarella cheese is sprinkled over the top right before baking.
Tip: Do not use cheap cheese because your finished dish just won’t have the same luxurious and rich cheesy flavor that this classic pasta recipe is known for. That means no “Parmesan” cheese from a green can.
Do I Have to Use Wine in This Recipe?
You don’t have to use wine in your paste e fagioli al forno but I strongly recommend it because it adds a richness and depth of flavor you can’t get without it.
Plus, the alcohol burns off in the cooking process and there’s only 1/2 cup total in a recipe that easily serves 6 to 8.
Use a dry white wine such as:
- Pinot Grigio
- Sauvignon Blanc
However, if you absolutely don’t want to use wine, use reduced sodium chicken or vegetable broth.
Can I Make Pasta e Fagioli al Forno in Advance?
Yes you absolutely can make this recipe for recipe for pasta al forno in advance!
Get to the point where you are going to bake it. Before baking, you can cover tightly with foil, and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking.
Alternatively, you can freeze it at this point for up to 3 months before baking it off.
It may be a bit cumbersome to keep a large baking dish in your freezer, but I’m just throwing it out there as an option in case you have the space and like to meal prep.
What to Serve with Pasta al Forno
I suggest serving this family favorite pasta recipe with a side of garlic bread, French bread, or any type of salad such as a Ceasar salad.
How to Store Leftovers
Like most any Italian recipes, this pasta e fagioli al forno recipe is absolutely wonderful fresh and hot from the oven with all that lovely melted cheese! However, leftover pasta fagioli al forno will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days.
In case you didn’t know this, a bit of food storage trivia is that pasta dishes in general freeze very well and this one is no exception. It will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 4 months.
Tips for the Best al Forno Pasta
Anytime there’s a recipe that has a lot of ingredients like this Italian pasta fagioli al forno, there are invariably many tips and pointers to share to ensure your dish turns out beautifully and I want to share some of my tips.
I always like to remind folks to read over any recipe at least once before beginning, but in this recipe because there is a lot going on, I highly suggest you read over the recipe once or twice before you start cooking so you know where you’re going with everything.
I use penne pasta, but you can use any type of small-shaped pasta such as ziti, rotini, or your favorite.
While the penne is boiling, make sure to multi-task by sautéing the sausage in a separate skillet so you’re not just standing around watching water boil!
If you like slightly spicier food, feel free to use a spicy or hot Italian sausage rather than regular. It’s not traditional, but you could also make this recipe with lean ground beef if you have some on hand to use up.
Make sure to slice your carrots fairly thin because if not, they will take a long time to soften as you are sautéing them with the celery and onions.
In this pasta e fagioli al forno, I used all dried herbs because I always have them in my pantry. If you happen to have fresh herbs, use double the amount of fresh herbs that is called for in dried herbs. Dried herbs can be more concentrated and intense which is why in cooking, in general, doubling the amount of fresh to dried is a good rule of thumb.
Making a roux (melting butter with flour and adding milk) and then adding the Parmesan and Provolone cheeses isn’t traditional either.
However, I like to use a rue because because it thickens up the cheese sauce a bit. If you don’t want to use flour because you don’t care if your cheese sauce is runnier, then simply omit the flour.
As it pertains to the milk, whole milk is best. You can probably get away with 2% but I do not recommend skim milk. I have never tried with plant-based milk such as cashew or almond so can’t speak to the flavor or results.
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- 1 pound penne pasta, cooked according to package directions (or similar pasta such as ziti or rotini)
- 1 pound ground Italian sausage (regular or hot)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil, or as needed
- 1 cup white or yellow onion, diced small
- 2 ribs celery, diced small
- 1 medium carrot, diced small or thinly sliced
- 3 to 5 cloves garlic, finely diced
- 28 ounces canned whole plum tomatoes such as San Marzano
- 2 tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano*
- 1 teaspoon dried rosemary*
- 1 /2 teaspoon dried basil*
- 1 /2 teaspoon thyme*
- 1 /2 teaspoon salt
- 1 /2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- one 15-ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (or Great Northern or navy beans)
- 1/2 cup dry white wine (such as chardonnay, pinot grigio, or sauvignon blanc; low-sodium chicken broth may be substituted)
- 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups whole milk**
- 1 cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese
- 1 cup shredded provolone or fontina cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- Preheat oven and spray a 2 to 3-quart casserole dish with cooking spray or spray a 9x13-inch baking pan; set aside. Preheat oven to 400F.
- Boil the penne according to package directions, drain, rinse; set aside.
- While the penne boils, begin sautéing the sausage in a separate large, deep, high-sided skillet over medium-high heat. Crumble the sausage as it cooks to ensure even cooking and browning. When done, set it aside on a plate. Tips - I don't drain the grease because you will need it for the following steps. However, if you have an excessive amount you can drain some off OR skip adding the olive oil in the next step.
- To the same skillet (with sausage grease), add the olive oil if desired or necessary, and add the onion, celery, carrots, and saute over medium-high heat for about 10 to 15 minutes, or until the vegetables have softened and are translucent. Stir frequently to ensure even cooking. Tip - Make sure the carrots are done before moving on as they tend to take the longest to soften.
- Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute, or until fragrant; stir constantly.
- Add the San Marzano tomatoes, tomato paste, all the herbs, salt, pepper, and simmer for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium or medium-low if needed so it's not a hard or fast simmer and is more gentle. Tip - To save time, if you can multitask, move on to step 9 during steps 6 through 8.
- Add the cooked sausage into the tomato sauce mixture and stir to combine.
- Add the cannellini beans, wine or broth, and simmer about 5 more minutes; turn off the heat and set aside when done as you work through the next steps.
- To a separate medium saucepan, add the butter, and heat over medium-high heat to melt it, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon.
- Sprinkle the flour over the top, and allow it to brown for 1 minute. This is a roux.
- Add the milk to your roux (be careful because it will bubble up) and simmer for about 5 minutes, or until thickened. Tip - The purpose of a roux is to help thicken the milk and subsequent cheese sauce that has milk in it. Although many traditional versions of this recipe don't use a roux, I find that without it, the finished dish and sauce is a little thin.
- Add the Parmesan, provolone, and stir constantly until melted.
- To the large skillet with the tomato sauce mixture and sausage, add the cooked penne, pour the cheese sauce over the top, and stir very well to combine.
- Transfer the mixture to .the prepared casserole dish.
- Evenly sprinkle with mozzarella and bake for about 5 minutes, or until the cheese is lightly golden browned.. Tip: For Make-Ahead OR Freezer-Prep - After sprinkling the cheese, cover tightly and refrigerate for up to 24 hours before baking OR cover tightly freeze for up to 3 months before baking although admittedly it will be tricky to find adequate space in your freezer for a casserole dish but if you have it, freezing is possible.
- Allow the pasta to rest for about 5 minutes before serving. Leftover pasta will keep airtight in the fridge for up to 5 days or in the freezer for up to 4 months. Reheat leftovers gently so the sauce doesn't break.
*I used all dried herbs because I always have them in my pantry. If you happen to have fresh herbs, use double the amount of fresh herbs that is called for in dried herbs. Dried herbs can be more concentrated and intense which is why in cooking, in general, doubling the amount of fresh to dried is a good rule of thumb.
**Whole milk is best. You can probably get away with 2% but I do not recommend skim milk. I have never tried with plant-based milk such as cashew or almond so can't speak to the flavor or results.
Amount Per Serving: Calories: 648Total Fat: 34gSaturated Fat: 16gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 19gCholesterol: 79mgSodium: 1635mgCarbohydrates: 50gFiber: 7gSugar: 10gProtein: 34g
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