Pasta With Beans And Greens

A steamy bowl of  Pasta With Beans And Greens is a comforting, delicious and yet healthy meal. Prepared in under 30 minutes from the simplest of ingredients, this Italian dish is also budget friendly, making it perfect to serve your family during the week.

Meals like this are often referred to as Italian peasant food or cucina povera. Fugal home cooks, not wanting to waste anything edible, used whatever ingredients they might have had in their kitchens or came from their farms to prepare simple but tasty family meals. Many times it was a one pot meal called minestra, zuppa or minestrone, a hearty soup or stew that usually contained vegetables, beans, pasta or grains.

Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens, Or Minestra As Italians Would Call It
Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens, Or Minestra As Italians Would Call It

Thankfully I’m not poor and my pantry and fridge are fully stocked but I also hate to be wasteful. I recently saved a large romaine lettuce and tomato salad which was dressed with extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice from a dinner the previous evening. Now anyone who has tried to save a salad dressed with a vinaigrette knows that it can start to wilt almost immediately but all was not lost. I know that tomatoes, greens, olive oil and lemon add great flavors to soups and created this meal using the leftover salad much the way a fugal Italian cook might have done with ingredients she had on hand in her kitchen. Of course, you can use all fresh ingredients to make this delicious dish.

Ditalini Pasta With Beans And Greens

Serves two generously, adjust the recipe accordingly.

  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 3 c. cooked cannelloni beans or 2 15 oz. cans, drained
  • 1 small onion, chopped
  • 2 – 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 15 oz. can low sodium broth, either beef, chicken or vegetable
  • 1 c. water, more if needed
  • 2 fresh tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried basil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 – 3/4 c. ditalini or other small tube pasta
  • 4 c. tender greens, chopped (I used romaine)
  • 1/4 tsp. fresh lemon juice
  • grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
  • extra virgin olive oil to drizzle before serving (optional)

Heat olive oil in a large pot over medium heat, add onion and sauté until soft. Add the garlic and sauté for about a minute.  Add half of beans, broth, water, oregano, basil, bay leaf, salt and pepper and cook until some of the beans start to break and thicken the liquid, about ten minutes. You can use the back of a spoon to break up some of the beans, if necessary.

Increase the heat to a boil and add the tomatoes, the other half of the beans and the pasta. Reduce the heat to medium and cook until the pasta is “al dente”, about ten minutes, stirring occasionally. The ditalini quickly absorbs the sauce so you may need to add more liquid. Add the greens, lower the heat and cook about three to five minutes, which will wilt the greens but keep  some of the stems crunchy texture. Remove the bay leaf before serving, add the lemon juice and taste for additional seasoning. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with some grated cheese and drizzle with a little extra virgin olive oil, if you wish.


I believe that you will enjoy this healthy meal of pasta with beans and greens. It can be modified to suit your taste and what you have available even if you are vegetarian or vegan. If you have the time to make homemade stock and beans…perfect, as you control each and every ingredient. If you’re a busy mother trying to get a healthy and filling meal on the table for your young family, you can use packaged broth and beans as I did to get dinner on my dinner table in a hurry.

I hate wasting food so my refrigerator always has containers with leftovers from a previous meal. My husband refers to me as the “goddess of garbage” because I can create a new and delicious meal out of leftovers that many people might have thrown in the garbage. I’d love to know, do you toss food that was left over at the end of a meal or do you get creative and us it for another meal.

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163 thoughts on “Pasta With Beans And Greens

  1. I was raised by German Canadian farmers who went through the great depression. We didn´t throw any food away! I still can´t bear to waste food and always use up my leftovers. This is a recipe I will certainly make. Thanks!!

  2. Oh yum Karen. I saw Jacques Pépin use salad like this, but I always/sometimes forget. Thanks for the reminder. I am working on cooking once and making two separate dishes and this works right into my plan.

    1. Hi Tin Man, I don’t know if it is ever going to feel like winter here in Florida but this is definitely comfort food. I’m glad you like it, thank you.

    1. I’m glad you like the idea, Monique…thank you. I hated to throw away the big salad I had and it worked perfectly with the pasta and beans.

  3. Really like your recipe–perfect combo of items I usually have in the kitchen. And yes, I love relying on leftovers and whatever is in the frig and pantry. Last night added a bloody mary mix to a pig liver stuffing for a pasta sauce because I didn’t have tomato paste. Fun.

    1. Hi Charlie, We’ve had the rain but not the cold but we still enjoyed this meal. I hope you will as well and that it warms you up. 🙂 Thanks as always for your visit.

    1. Hi Judy, Our year has started out well, I hope yours has too. This is a comforting dish, even if we haven’t had any cold weather as yet…just a few days in the 70’s. I’m glad you like the recipe, thank you.

  4. We almost always save leftovers, and use them in a new meal. Hate wasting food! Anyway, ditalini is such a nice shape and size, isn’t it? One of my favorite pastas. Perfect for this dish. Good stuff — thanks.

    1. Thank you John for your nice compliment. I’m glad that you too use leftovers to create a new meal. Yes, I always have a box of ditalini in the pantry…as you say, it is such a nice size to use in so many recipes.

  5. I love this and will try it with the very next leftover green salad! I have not done that before and it sounds delicious. You are right, all the flavors are there, why not put them into the pot? I do use leftovers all the time, as illustrated in some of my recent blog posts. Often we wind up saying we liked the wnd version better than the first time around!

    1. Hi Mary Ann, I’m happy to know that you like my idea of using leftover salad in this recipe. I thought it worked perfectly. I make pasta, beans and greens often but the romaine and fresh tomatoes really added to the overall taste and texture. Yes, I’ve enjoyed your posts on using leftovers…sounds like we are on the same wavelength. 🙂

    1. Hi Grace, I’m glad that you like the looks of the pasta, beans and greens…thank you. Happy to hear that you are in my camp about trying to not waste food.

    1. Hi Gerlinde, I just couldn’t throw out such a big salad and I thought why not use it in soup…glad you like the idea. Thank you, I hope you are having a nice weekend as well.

    1. Thank you for your nice compliment, Larry. Isn’t it funny how we think nothing of using spinach, chard and other greens when cooking but not romaine…it worked terrific. 😀

    1. Hi Judy, I’m glad you like the soup…it is something that would make you feel better. Yes…just being the two of us, we often get more than one meal when I cook dinner.

  6. Great looking soup Karen. I try to use up all of my leftovers, but sometimes it can be a challenge. Love the idea of using a dressed salad in this soup. We have been eating so many salads lately that I always have extra.

    1. Thank you Penny, I’m glad you like the looks of my soup. I would definitely suggest using a leftover vinaigrette based salad the next day in a soup…it worked perfectly and the flavor is delicious.

  7. Nice to know that you too are frugal with your cooking. Leftovers can be very inspiring and render the most interseting and tasty meals that we might not have thought up otherwise. This looks like just the soup that I need to make tomorrow. I have left over chick peas and micro beet greens in the fridge and ditalini and canned tomatoes in my pantry… thanks for the inspiration!

    1. Yes, Laura, You could definitely call me a frugal cook. I can’t see throwing away good food that wasn’t eaten at a meal when it can be turned into another delicious meal later in the week. It is so true that those leftovers can definitely inspire new dishes. I’m happy to know that this post has inspired one of your meals…thanks.

  8. We weren’t Italian but we grew up eating hearty peasant food. Every culture has such dishes and they’re a joy to discover for their great taste and ease on your wallet. 🙂

    1. Hi Boleyn, I’m not Italian either and I agree that each culture has very similar dishes…all of them being some of our most loved dishes. They are the comfort foods that we enjoy, many that we remember sharing at our parents and grandparents kitchen tables. 🙂

  9. Tis the season. It’s cold here in Denver, so this looks mighty delicious. I always make minestrone as a planned meal. I need to wire my brain to think about it for using up left overs. I’ve always got pasta in the pantry. Happy New Year Karen. And yes, that selfie in my blog is the first photo try. I did about 4 more shots until the cantankerous one had enough. And ended up choosing the first shot. 🙂

    1. Hi Lea Ann, Thank you for your compliment and wish. Minestrone is a great dish to use leftovers in, glad you like the recipe. Cats can definitely be cantankerous. 😀

  10. The pasta soup looks good and it’s healthy too. I agree with you about food waste, I do my best but I am occasionally guilty! I am always schocked when I see reports about how much food we as a nation throw away. 😉

  11. I seem to always have leftovers as well and like you, I do hate to throw them out. I don’t think I’ve ever rescued a salad from the night before though! It’s great you salvaged yours. The pasta dish looks really tasty and comforting and so good for you xx

    1. Hi Charlie, The next time you have a leftover salad do try using it in soup…I think you will be pleasantly surprised. I’m glad you like my pasta dish, it was delicious. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  12. Mmm, looks delicious! I was thinking of making something similar just today, but didn’t have any small pasta. I love the idea of adding yesterday’s salad to it. I will try out your recipe this week Karen, as it is the perfect dish for a winter’s supper. I always make sure any vegetables still sitting in my fridge at the end of the week get put in a soup or curry. And I devised a kind of spaghetti ‘muffin’ a few years ago as I always cook too much spaghetti!

    1. Thank you Cathy, for your nice compliment. I hope you will enjoy the dish as much as my husband and I did. Your spaghetti muffin sounds interesting, perhaps you could share your recipe sometime.

  13. I’m like you Karen, I HATE throwing away leftovers! And I really do try to use them all up in inventive ways like you (and the salad in the soup is BRILLIANT, I might add), but that doesn’t always happen before they turn into “science experiments” as my husband calls them when they go bad in the back of the fridge. 😉

    1. Hi Kathryn, I’m glad you like my idea of using the salad in the soup…it really turned out well. You gave me a chuckle with your “science experiments”. I’ve had a few of those on the very top self of our fridge…too high for me to see what’s at the back sometimes. 😀

  14. I just have to laugh at “Goddess of Garbage!” That’s me, too! I don’t waste much, that’s for sure, but you’ve given me a whole new tip about the salad added to soup or pasta. I think there may be a lot of peasant in me, quite frankly, because this combination of beans, greens and pasta really delights me. Very timely with all this wet and cold weather, too. I think I have all the ingredients and I’d love to make this tomorrow. I think a bowl for dinner and then for work the next day sounds just wonderful. Thank you. 🙂

    1. Hi Debra, Yes that is what my husband calls me. 😀 He never knows what I’ll come up with but always thinks it’s good. Definitely try using your leftover salad in soup or pasta dishes. I hope you enjoy this recipe if you give it a try…it should be perfect for the cool, wet weather you’ve been having.

  15. This kind of dish may be called cucina povera but the taste and satiety and health it brings would be hard to measure on the wealth scale . . . it’s fun cooking besides 🙂 !

  16. Hello Karen
    The recipe looks delicious—we will be trying that soon
    We always have a lot of leftovers and one of our favorite days of the week is “Fridge Clean-Out Day”—I love those meals that have a whole mishmash of good things. We don’t consider that “poor” eating by any means—more like a “buffet”!!
    Hope all is going well with you in your new home. We are FINALLY getting some decent snow and hope to dust off the skis today–Hooray!!
    Take care and have a wonderful week

    1. Hi Sue, Yes we try to use the bits and pieces of previous dinners before trash day…cleaning out the fridge just like you and sometimes it does look like a buffet. 😀 I hope you like the dish if you get a chance to try it. Enjoy your skiing.

  17. Like you I too hate to throw away leftovers but I am not as creative as you. I do add lettuce to soup but not when dressed, must remember this next time I have leftover salad, great idea.

    1. Hi Norma, We all think nothing of sautéing fresh spinach, kale or escarole and tomatoes in olive oil and lemon juice enhances the flavors…the left over salad worked perfectly. Thank you for your nice compliment. 🙂

    1. Hi David, You are right about this recipe being good on a winter’s day. Even with the weather being in the 70’s and 80’s this past week here in Florida, this was still a delicious meal. 😀

  18. Excellent idea for the salad leftovers Karen…I wonder if I’m the only one picking at the leftover salad with my fingers while doing the dishes (I know my mother used to and I watched my mother in law do the same…maybe it’s just hereditary).
    I can’t say that I often use leftovers to make a new meal unless it’s a roast or something like a ham but since I don’t care for sandwiches for lunch, almost all the leftovers are the next day’s lunch for me. Between that and a Bernese Mountain dog, there’s not a lot that gets thrown away here.

    1. I’m glad you like the idea for using leftover salad, Diane. I’m a salad eater and if you leave a plate of salad in front of me long enough, I’ll eat it bit by bit until it’s gone. I bet you dog does help out…especially with what drops on the floor. 😀

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment, Donalyn. This truly is a simple recipe but the flavors really come through in its simplify…I’m glad you like it.

  19. Hello Karen!
    This is what I call real food! Simply yet delicious. I’m all for the so-called cucina povera. Those cooks knew exactly what they were doing … sometime better than most of the current celebrity chefs!
    Simply love this!

    1. Thank you for your lovely compliment, Francesca. Yes, I agree that this truly is real food. We have those cooks to thank for many of the dishes that many of us love today. Taking what we have in our kitchens and making what we can with it, turns out to be some of our best meals. 🙂

    1. Leave it to me Susan, to use day old salad. 😀 The nice thing is that it really works…this dish turned out great even if I do say so myself. I’m glad you like the idea, thank you.

    1. Thank you Chris, I’m happy to know that you liked my idea for saving a leftover salad. My husband and I really liked the fresh flavors in this dish.

    1. Hi Lorraine, I’m happy that you agree with me about the recipes that are considered cucina povera. Cooks made the most of what they had in their kitchens and tried not to waste a thing and in doing so created some of our best loved home cooked meals.

    1. Hi Beth, If you ever have a lettuce and tomato salad that is leftover, use it in a recipe like this…I think you would really like it. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  20. Another delicious recipe! Like you, I hate to waste anything and often throw leftovers into the soup pot. I’ve been playing a lot with Indian spices lately and this reminder about good old oregano and basil was perfectly timed. Your recipes and blog are always a joy!

    1. I’m glad that you like the recipe, Peter and I appreciate your lovely compliment about my blog. That is so kind of you. Your garden posts are always inspiring. I’m just getting ready to have a small herb garden made in our back yard and oregano, basil and thyme will be some of my must have herbs.

  21. Karen that looks like a bowl of deliciousness. The weather here in HK has been damp and rainy and that is all I want is soup and stews and can’t wait to try your recipe. Karen which plugin did you use to pull in related recipes on your word press site? Take Care

    1. Thank you Bobbie, I’m glad you like the looks of the pasta with beans and greens. Today is a cool and sunny day but we’ve been having rain off and on over the last week. I think our weather is similar. As to the three related posts and the bottom…I don’t have any plugins. I don’t have any choices, WP just selects and puts them there.

      1. Thanks for you response Karen. That is awesome that does this automatically. I think because I am self hosted I will have to look into a plugin for this service. take care

  22. I made this for dinner making a few substitutions for what I had on hand (canned diced tomatoes, Parmesan rinds, orzo) as well as added more broth/water to bulk up the recipe. I love the flavor and texture of the romaine. It was delicious and it made a good amount so we now have soup for the week. Thanks for sharing the recipe!

    1. Hi Ann, Thank you for letting me know that my recipe inspired you and that you enjoyed the dish. I’m happy that you liked adding the romaine, I think it really is a good choice to include in a soup.

  23. While seeing the picture and reading your post, I almost could smell the soup. I could have a soup like this any day and I love the fact that you used salad leaves, I find it adds a little medieval touch to the whole…we don’t cook enough salad anymore 😉

    1. Thank you Didi, for your lovely compliment. I’m glad you liked the photo and could envision what the soup would smell and taste like. I think you are right, we need to use salad leaves more often in our cooking.

    1. Hi Barbara, I wish I could have sent some your way. We’ve had a lot of rainy weather here in Florida lately and soup does make a nice meal.

  24. I’m surprised to see a hearty, warm meal on your blog your first winter in Florida, Karen. We have been enjoying the benefits of El Niño of late but today we are getting hammered with snow. I bet you sure don’t miss those days!
    A friend reminded me of “compost stock” vegetable ends and scraps that you would normally put in the compost. I collect the scraps in a freezer bag and when I have enough, I cover with water and simmer all day for an incredible vegetable stock — I usually get 3 quarts of stock! One of the best I made to date is one made from onion and garlic skins, it’s a very flavourful broth. I also save Parmesan rinds and anytime I make a sauce, in one goes! During corn season, I grill one too many and cut the kernels off and freeze for garnishes for a hint of summer. Happy New Year to you Karen, I wish you all the best for 2016.

    1. Hi Eva, It doesn’t have to be cold outside for me to cook up a bowl of pasta, beans and greens…it’s a favorite of mine anytime of the year. It sounds like you are like many of my readers and use the little bits and pieces that accumulate during the week, that’s great. Thank you for you wish for the new year and yes, we aren’t missing the cold and snow. 😀

    1. Hi Amanda, This really is a simple dish that we enjoyed on a rainy evening. Absolutely, any greens you mentioned would be perfect with the pasta and beans. Thank you for your nice compliment.

    1. Hi Pam, I agree with you about this being real comfort food. I’m happy to know this is the kind of food you enjoy…thank you for your nice compliment.

  25. You’re right…a healthy and hearty dish and great for not wasting foods. I’ve never seen lettuce used in a soup before and why not? What a great idea because it’s hard for the two of us to go through a head of lettuce before it starts to wilt. Great post Karen!

  26. I have a big bunch of Kale my friend that I was going to use this week, this looks and sounds absolutely PERFECT!! Thank you so much for this simple and delicious recipe that I know my family will love!!

    1. Kale would go great in this dish, Didi. I’m glad that you like the recipe, I hope you and your family will enjoy it. Thank you for the compliment.

  27. I never knew there was a great Italian phrase — cucina povera — for this kind of cooking. Like you, I hate to waste food and often reprise last night’s dinner as today’s soup for lunch. And I freeze little bags of stuff for making into something, someday. I love to hear my husband brag, “She can make a good soup out of anything!” But I don’t know what to do with the tops of the fennel I saved. Ideas?

    1. Hi Rosemary, it sounds like both of us have husbands that approve of our soup meals. 😀 I used to grow fennel in my garden…the stalks and fronds add a nice flavor to soups, are good to add to a bread stuffing or to use as a base when roasting meats.

  28. This bowl looks so comforting! We make something like this (it’s one of the husband’s favorites) with our frozen Summer long green beans cut up and with a big bag of diced tomatoes. On chilly days like today having those vegetables all ready to go in a warm soup really makes us smile! Totally going to try your recipe – thank you!

    1. Thank you Pamela, for your nice compliment. With all the veggies you grow in your garden, you have so many possibilities to create a similar dish. I hope you will enjoy the recipe.

  29. Thanks so much, my friend. I truly feel the way you do about using up everything I have in the fridge as they near the end of freshness…not always easy but this is a lovely recipe. I’m loving this!!!

    Jane x

    1. Hi Jane, Yes I think we are a lot alike. This recipe would be perfect with all the frigid weather you are having. Hope your knees are better. 🙂

  30. While I do have an embarrassingly full pantry, I’m also very frugal. And I love re-purposing food. This soup looks absolutely delicious and comforting! I could definitely use a few bowls of this! Cheers and thanks for sharing the YUM!

    1. Hi Cheyanne, I appreciate your stopping by for a visit and your nice compliment about the soup. I’m glad you like it, thank you! My pantry seems to always be filled too but as you say, it doesn’t hurt to be frugal when it comes to food. 🙂

  31. This is such a delicious looking soup Karen…and it sure warm you up in this cold weather…I do love the idea of using leftover…
    Enjoy the rest of your week 🙂

    1. Hi Juliana, I’m glad you like the soup. It is warming and comforting and was perfect for all the rainy days we’ve had recently. I hope you are having a nice weekend.

  32. For me, who tries hard to stop stocking on so much food in the pantry and in the freezer, your pasta dish sounds very inspiring! When I have dish leftovers, I usually eat them for the next meal or two. When I see vegetables “dying”, I usually make fried rice (which is often much more appreciated than my fancy, hard to prepare dishes!) or a salad. Now I’ll add your wonderful pasta to my list!

    1. It’s nice to know that you thought the post was inspiring Sissi, thank you. I’ve got some shrimp leftover that is going into a fried rice dish myself. 🙂

  33. Oh, this is a beauty, Karen and I love when we can use what’s in our fridge. I finally got smart last year and started freezing my veggies before they died and use them in stews and soups later on. I will be making this lovely, flavorful dish!

    1. Thank you Robyn, for your visit and lovely compliment. I hope you will enjoy the pasta with beans and greens if you get a chance to prepare it. 🙂

    1. Hi Ksenia, It is indeed a comforting meal…one that we enjoy often with whatever greens I have in the fridge. Thank you for your nice compliment.

  34. Thank you Donna, I also use escarole in this dish but was very happy with the romaine I used this time and will use it again. You never know how it will turn out until you try. 🙂

  35. Both of my parents and all of my relatives in Italy were raised on cucina povera, and every family has their own special (and humble) bean soup recipe. I’ve never had it with greens included but I am certain this is a delicious comfort soup, Karen! Thank you for all of your visits to my blog!

  36. Karen, I’m happy you shared this recipe. A similar soup is on several of our local restaurant menus and I’d love to make this soup for our weekend at our camp.

  37. Looks yummy and very hearty and warming. Definitely needed at this time of the year in Scotland! I love recipes that you can use up lots leftovers. Salad, however it always one of the leftovers I’ve never known how to re-use, so thanks for the recipe!

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