Pasta and beans is one of the most typical traditional dishes of Italian home cooking. This rustic dish is made throughout the country and each region has its own recipe or recipes! Undoubtedly, among the most famous versions is pasta with mussels and beans, also known as Neapolitan pasta and beans.
Pasta con cozze e fagioli
In Naples, pasta with mussels and beans is often more of a thick soup. However, some people prefer to make a drier version like this recipe. In the soup version, the pasta is typically cooked together with the beans in broth. It’s a lot more filling and heavier. So, in my opinion better suited to colder weather! In this drier version, I cooked the pasta very al dente separately and then finished it off with the tomatoes and beans.
I cooked the mussels on their own and just added them at the end. This is also the way it is done traditionally as mussels really don’t need much cooking!
Which beans are best?
The most traditional beans used in pasta and beans soups in Italy are borlotti or cannellini. Both types can be used in this recipe. Some Italians use both together! I followed a recipe which called for black beans. Again, because I think the end dish is lighter and also I loved the colour! Sounds silly, but we eat with our eyes too! And, the black beans and mussels contrasted so well with the tomatoes and pasta. This dish tasted as beautiful as it looked!
I always prefer to use dried legumes in my cooking. Mostly, because I think they taste better and are definitely healthier. However, this does lengthen the time it takes to make this recipe because the beans need to be soaked overnight and then cooked. In the case of black beans, only for an hour as they are quite small. Of course, you can use canned beans instead.
What pasta to use?
When making pasta with beans, Italians usually use small pasta tubes such as ditalini or flat maltagliati. Since this isn’t really a soup recipe, I decided to use vesuvio pasta. This unique contemporary pasta shape comes from Campania and is named after Vesuvius, the volcano that dominates the skyline around Naples.
As you can imagine this pasta is shaped to look like the volcano. It’s not only a very pretty pasta but holds together really well and tastes great. Most of the companies that make vesuvio pasta are located in or near Gragnano, a town near Naples which is famous for its dried pasta production.
Other types of pasta that are used in drier versions of pasta with mussels and beans are fusilli, orecchiette or short pasta tubes like rigatoni or penne. So, if you can’t find vesuvio pasta, any of these would work well too!
Making this pasta with mussels and beans recipe.
This recipe requires a few steps, especially if you are going to use dry legumes. As I mentioned above, the beans will need to be soaked overnight and then cooked in boiling water for an hour. The next step is to clean and cook the mussels. Don’t forget to discard any that don’t open.
After cooking the mussels and removing most of them from their shells, I filtered the remaining liquid and set it and the mussels aside. Then I made the sauce. This is quite simple, just chopped fresh tomatoes, parsley, peperoncino and garlic. Once the sauce is cooked, add the beans and the liquid from the cooked mussels.
If using canned beans, just rinse them before adding them. Finally, all you need to do is cook the pasta al dente, add it to the tomatoes and beans and cook a bit more with some of the pasta cooking water. The mussels are added at the last minute.
Pasta, beans and seafood.
The combination of pasta, beans and seafood is particularly Southern Italian and very popular in that part of the country. Although mussels are the most popular seafood addition there are also recipes that include clams or prawns or even fish as well. If you try this recipe, I’m sure you’ll not only enjoy it, but also understand why Southern Italians love it so much!
If you make this pasta with mussels and beans recipe, I’d love to hear how it turns out and if you liked it. So, please leave a comment here on the blog or on The Pasta Project Facebook page.
Looking forward to hearing from you!
Other seafood pasta recipes you should try.
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Vesuvio pasta with mussels and black beans
- 400 g vesuvio pasta (14 oz) or fusilli, rigatoni or orecchiette
- 400 g black beans (14 oz) soaked and cooked or canned (200-250g dried beans)
- 800 g fresh mussels (28 oz) washed and cleaned
- 300 g ripe tomatoes (10 oz) cut into cubes
- 2 garlic cloves peeled and chopped
- 1 red chili pepper peperoncino – finely chopped
- 1 handful fresh parsley chopped
- 3-4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- salt for pasta
- black pepper to taste
If using dried legumes
- The night before soak the beans in a pan. Make sure they are well covered with water! The next day rinse them and cook for about one hour in plenty of fresh water. Once they are ready, drain, and set aside.
- Brush and wash the mussels well, place them in a saucepan over high heat and steam them covered until they have all opened.
- Remove most of the mussels from the shells and put them aside. I keep a few in the shells for decoration! Filter the remaining water to remove the sand and keep aside too. Discard the rest of the shells.
Make the sauce
- Wash and cut the tomatoes into small cubes. Chop the parsley and garlic and red chili pepper into small pieces (remove the seeds from the pepper if you prefer less spice)
- Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan or skillet. Add the parsley, garlic and chili pepper. Cook until the garlic starts to soften then add the chopped tomatoes.
- Once the tomatoes have started to soften, add the drained beans. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the filtered mussel water and simmer on a low heat while you cook the pasta.
Cook the pasta
- Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta, add salt once it starts to boil and bring to the boil again. Cook the pasta a couple of minutes less than the cooking time stated on the packet. Save some of the pasta cooking water.
Finish the dish
- Drain the pasta add it to the beans and tomatoes with some of its cooking water and continue to cook until the pasta is ready. Add more pasta cooking water if necessary.
- When the pasta is cooked. Add in the mussels. Turn off the heat and allow a couple of minutes for the mussels to heat through. Serve sprinkled with more fresh parsley, some ground black pepper and a dash of extra virgin olive oil. Some people like to add some extra red chili flakes to make the dish spicier.
Save this recipe for later?
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If you are interested in learning how to make homemade pasta and different types of gnocchi, check out my shop page for some great video online courses from my friends in Rome! Nothing beats learning to make pasta from Italians! Plus while you’re there why not order a copy of my autumn/winter pasta recipes cookbook!?