Pasta e Fagiole

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“Fagiole” are beans. Pasta e Fagiole is a thick bean soup that you would find at trattorias throughout Italy. It is relatively simple to make, is quite healthy, and delicious. This is my version.

Begin by chopping vegetables. Onion, carrots and celery are the base. This time I also added one yellow crookneck squash, one medium zucchini, and two tomatoes from a friend’s garden. Coarsely chop at least a cup of Italian parsely, and 10 fresh sage leaves. Sauté in olive oil until the onions are translucent.

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Add at least a quart of good chicken stock and some dry white wine. Did I mention salt and pepper? Season at every stage. That means when you began to sauté the vegetables.

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A lot of recipes call for dry cannelini beans (white beans), which need to be rinsed and soaked overnight. I’m too ad hoc for that, so I usually keep cans of them on hand. Add three or four 15-ounce cans of white beans and simmer until the vegetables are soft and tender.

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Meanwhile, kids are probably pestering about empty bellies with persistent irritation. You chopped all those healthy vegetables. Did you save some?

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Back to cooking. The soup now needs to be pureed. An immersion blender works best because you don’t dirty another vessel and worry about transferring hot soup, which doesn’t feel nice if you get it on yourself. Recently a lazy child placed the “stick” part of my immersion blender in the bottom of the dishwasher, causing it to melt and warp the plastic housing, rendering it useless. I now have a new turquoise one. Use what you have.

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After you puree, add two additional cans of drained white beans. This is a good time to adjust seasoning. More salt and pepper. Also, acid! Seasoning and soup requires a good acid balance, otherwise it will be flat and dull and no one will want to eat more than a few bites. You have options. Balsamic vinegar is good, start one tablespoon at a time. Also lemon juice works well. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes.

You are at a holding point. If you proceed from this point, it means that you wish to serve the soup within the next half hour.

Once you add the pasta, it will begin to cook and it will continue to absorb liquid and expand. I like al dente pasta, which means you add it just before you want to eat so that the pasta is properly cooked. I understand that this dish was often used to get rid of leftover plain cooked pasta. “Ditalini” or salad macaroni is traditional, but use whatever you like or have on hand. The more pasta you add, the thicker the soup will be. You may also wish to add a little tap water to maintain the consistency you want. Simmer slowly for another ten minutes and then remove from heat.

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The next thing I added this time is definitely not canon, but my wife and I are basil addicts. We love it on everything. And my basil that I have growing on the patio is gorgeous. Add a dozen leaves, cut chiffonade, to the soup and stir. Serve hot garnished with grated Pecorino Romano, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, and cracked black pepper.

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