My Grandma made this hearty pasta dish often when I was growing up. Grandma Laciura was Dutch-American but she was raised in a poor Italian neighborhood in New Jersey and she married my Grandfather who was pure Sicilian. Italian food was all that she knew how to make. She was a great Italian cook! When I was a teenager I asked her to teach me how to make a few of her basics.
Everything Grandma made started out with a few glugs of olive oil, a few cloves of roughly minced garlic and 1/2 of a yellow onion diced, all sautéed together over medium heat with oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Over the years I’ve replaced the oregano with a basic Italian seasoning blend because I prefer the flavor. To make Pasta Fagioli (pronounced pasta fah-zool) add a can of soft white beans (cannellini are best but I used butter beans this time around because I had them on hand) along with about half of the liquid from the can. Here I also like to add a dash or two of red pepper flakes. Let this simmer 2-5 min. over medium-low heat while onions soften and begin to dissolve and flavors begin to meld. Next add an 8oz. can of tomato sauce or a cup of leftover marinara.
This makes a pale, reddish-orange sauce to toss with any small pasta. I prefer whole wheat bow ties or penne. Grandma liked elbow noodles. Top it with freshly grated Parmesan if you like. Grandma would have added a hunk of crusty bread with butter.