Today definitely did not feel like August 24, especially with a high of 71°F. It definitely felt more like October. My wife was in the mood for a bowl of soup. And you know what, so was I. One of my favorite soups has to be pasta e fagioli. That’s right it’s pasta e fagioli, not pasta fazool. Pasta e fagioli translates to “pasta and beans”. There are many different versions of this Italian/Italian-American standby.
My version of pasta e fagioli is simple, but very tasty. I also use rosemary, lots of rosemary. There is something special about the aroma of rosemary and the flavor it imparts to the overall dish. I also use pancetta. If you know me, you know I love any kind of pork product. It imparts a meaty dimension to the soup. And of course, you need beans. I use dried cannellini beans. That’s right no cans here. It’s a little more cooking time and preparation, but the final product is so much better. So I hope you try this recipe on the next cool, fall day. Enjoy!
Pasta e Fagioli
1 16 oz. bag of dried cannellini beans
8 oz. pancetta, diced
1 white onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, finely minced
1 28 oz. can whole plum tomatoes
1 28 oz. can crushed tomatoes
1 quart chicken stock
3 sprigs of rosemary
Pinch of crushed red pepper
Salt & freshly cracked pepper to taste
1 pound of ditalini
Drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil
1. There are two ways to prepare the cannellini beans for the soup. If you are making the soup the following day, soak the beans in 8 cups of cold water overnight. Before using, drain the water. If you are preparing the soup the same day, you have to cover the beans with 8 cups of hot water in a medium saucepan. Bring the water to a boil and let it boil for 2 minutes. When the 2 minutes are up, turn the heat off and let the beans rest in the water for an hour. Before use drain the water,
2. About an hour or so before you are ready to prepare the soup, cover the beans with about 10 cups of water and turn the heat on high. Add a sprig of rosemary. Bring the beans to a boil, then turn it down to a simmer and let it cook for about 1 hour.
3. Meanwhile, start heating a large soup pot on the stove over high heat. Add the pancetta. Let the pancetta cook for about 10 minutes. A lot of the fat will render out. After about 10 minutes, pour off all but about 1 tablespoon of the fat.
4. Add the diced onions to the pancetta, lower the heat to medium. Let it cook for about 6-8 minutes. You want the onions to sweat, but not brown.
5. After about 8 minutes, add the minced garlic and let it cook for 1 minute.
6. Add a little bit of the stock to deglaze the bottom of the pot.
7. Add the can of whole tomatoes, and with a potato masher, crush the whole tomatoes.
8. Add the can of crushed tomatoes.
9. With the remainder of the chicken stock, “rinse out” the tomato cans, and add it to the pot.
10. Add a sprig of rosemary, a pinch of crushed red pepper, a pinch of salt and some freshly cracked black pepper. Put the heat on high and bring the soup to a boil.
11. Once the soup starts to boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover it and let it cook for 45 minutes or so.
12. After the beans have cooked for 1 hour, drain the water. Discard the rosemary sprig. In a food processor, pulse 2 cups of the beans until smooth. Add the whole and pureed beans to the soup. Taste and adjust the salt and pepper.
13. Bring a large pot of water to a boil for the pasta. Once the water starts to boil, add salt (about 4 tablespoons) and the ditalini. Cook the pasta about 1 minute shy of the package directions.
14. Add the last sprig of rosemary to the soup.
15. Once the pasta is done, drain it in a colander, add it back to the pot and drizzle it with extra virgin olive oil.
16. To assemble the dish, place a ladle full of ditalini in a soup bowl. Then ladle the soup over the pasta. Make sure you don’t forget the beans which sink to the bottom. Crack some fresh black pepper and a drizzle of high quality extra virgin olive oil over the soup. You can also sprinkle some grated cheese (Pecorino Romano or Parmigiano-Reggiano). Serve immediately.
Living to eat,