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“Pasta e fagioli,” Italian for simply pasta and beans, is a hearty soup with plenty of vegetables, beans and, of course, pasta. The recipes vary on what kinds of pastas and beans to use as well as what to season the soup with.

The one ingredient that is constant in all is jarred spaghetti sauce. Some recipes were even brand specific. Traditionally a meatless soup, many of the recipes also called for ground beef.

Some recipes called for using the beans with their liquid and some didn’t. Draining the liquid from canned beans reduces the sodium in the recipe. But the liquid can be used to thicken the soup, so set some aside.

Slow-cooker Pasta e Fagioli Soup

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Serves: 12 (about 1 ¼ cup servings)

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Total time: 7-8 hours on slow-cooker low setting

2 pounds ground beef chuck

1 cup diced onion

3 carrots, chopped or julienned

3 ribs celery, chopped

2 cloves garlic, peeled, minced

2 cans (28 ounces each) diced tomatoes

1 can (15 ounces) red kidney beans, drained

1 can (15 ounces) cannellini beans, drained

2 cans (15 ounces) beef stock

1 jar (24 ounces) traditional spaghetti sauce

1 tablespoon white vinegar

1 ½ teaspoons salt

3 teaspoons oregano

2 teaspoons basil

1 teaspoon Tabasco sauce

8 ounces ditalini pasta

Brown ground beef in large skillet. Drain fat. Put beef and all ingredients except the pasta into a large slow cooker. Cook on low for 7-8 hours or high for 4-5 hours. Before serving, cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and add to soup.

To cook this on the stove top: Brown meat in a large soup pot. Add onion, carrots, celery and garlic and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients except pasta, and simmer 1 hour. Meanwhile, cook pasta according to package directions. Add pasta to soup and simmer 10 minutes more.

Adapted from several recipes.

Tested by Susan M. Selasky for the Free Press Test Kitchen.

412 calories (32 percent from fat), 15 grams fat (5 grams sat. fat), 39 grams carbohydrates, 31 grams protein, 870 mg sodium, 72 mg cholesterol, 8 grams fiber.

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