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Beans, Mussels, And Pasta Soup

A personal favorite for Christmas Eve is this mussel and pasta soup, thickened with two kinds of dried beans and potatoes. The original recipe comes from my friend Maria Castaldo Esposito's mother, who lives in Scisciano, near Mount Vesuvius.

Cuisine: Italian
Courses: Soup
Serves: 8 people

Recipe Ingredients

1/2 cup 80g / 2.8ozDried Great Northern or cannellini beans
1/2 cup 80g / 2.8ozDried red kidney or borlotti beans
1/4 cup 59mlOlive oil - plus
2 tablespoons 30mlOlive oil
3   Garlic cloves - minced
1/4 cup 23g / 0.8ozMinced flat-leaf parsley
2 lbs 908g / 32ozMussels - scrubbed and
1/2 cup 118mlDry white wine
1 teaspoon 5mlFine sea salt - or more to taste
  Freshly-ground black pepper - to taste
1   Onion - chopped (large)
2 tablespoons 30mlMinced fresh basil
1/4 cup 10g / 0.4ozChopped fennel leaves
  = (or flat-leaf parsley)
2 cups 474mlTomato And Basil Sauce - (see recipe)
  = (or 2 cups diced peeled tomatoes)
2   All-purpose potatoes - peeled and cubed (medium)
2 cups 474mlCooked ditalini or elbow macaroni

Recipe Instructions

Place the beans in a pot, cover with 5 cups of water, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over medium heat for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the beans are al dente. Drain, reserving 2 cups of the cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large skillet. Add half the garlic and saute until it softens. Add the parsley, mussels, wine, salt, and pepper. Cover and simmer until the mussels open, about 6 to 8 minutes. Scoop the mussels out of the pan with a slotted spoon and let them cool. Strain the cooking liquid into a bowl.

When cool enough to handle, shell the mussels, discarding any that are cracked or did not open. Add the mussels to the reserved cooking liquid, cover, and refrigerate.

Return the skillet to the stove and heat the remaining 3 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the remaining garlic, the onion, basil, and fennel leaves. Saute until the onion is wilted. Add the diced tomatoes or tomato sauce, stir well, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the beans, the reserved bean cooking liquid, and the potatoes and mix well. Cover and simmer for 25 minutes.

Add the mussels and their reserved liquid and cook, covered, for 5 minutes. Add the ditalini or elbow macaroni and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, until heated through. Serve immediately.

Note: If you prefer a thinner soup, add additional bean water.

This recipe yields 6 to 8 servings.

Ciao Italia at


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