Pasta & Fagioli
If you walk into any pizzeria you can easily find this on the menu. It is a very simple dish, and a traditional favorite. It is simply, Pasta and bean soup. A dish like this can easily replace a meal, especially if served with good Italian bread or even garlic bread. If you follow these directions, this will be the best version of this recipe you will ever find in any restaurant, and most definitely better than any canned or bottle brand on your supermarket shelf.
There is no real secret here. The ingredients are nearly universal, but it is the method, and it does require a small food processor, one you could probably buy in the supermarket for $10 or so. The tip is to finely chop the vegetables and half the can of beans. When you pulse chop the vegetables first, then half the can of beans, you get a much smoother, silkier and creamier version of something that differs from what could be mistaken for the common minestrone (Italian vegetable soup). It might not be like Grandma’s but forgive me when I tell you it is far better.
This recipe should feed 4, or more. Like any recipe, the quality of the ingredients matters a great deal. Many will say that fresh beans are better, and I have no doubt about that, but if you do not have time to soak beans overnight, canned beans work just as well. Just remember to rinse them very very well.
- 1 15 ounce can small white beans
- 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped or shredded with a grater.
- 1 cup combine of carrot, celery, onion
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 cup fresh chopped parsley and/or basil
- 4 cups quality chicken brother and/or 3 teaspoons of *Better than Broth Brand PLUS 3 cups of water
- 1/4 cup ditalini or small shaped pasta such as mini shells, elbow macaroni, etc.
- Pinch (1/8 teaspoon) of crushed red pepper (peperoncino)
- OPTIONAL: 1-2 ounces finely chopped bacon or pancetta (this could easily be a vegetarian dish if you omit this)
There are obviously two ways to make this dish. Chunky or rustic style, or more refined with a small food processor. Either way, you want to chop the vegetables and garlic as finely as you can. If you put this in a small food processor, add the garlic along with the parsley, carrot, celery and onion. This is what they call a “passata”, a puree or paste.
Add this to a heated Dutch oven or heavy bottom pot with enough olive oil to coat the bottom. Add the salt and pepper until the mixture is softened, translucent and fragrant, about 5-10 minutes. If you decide to use the bacon or pancetta, you want to add this now.
Add in the tomato paste and allow that to cook as well. A splash of water or wine cannot hurt here so it all loosens up and blends together.
While that is happening, add in 1/4 cup of fresh spring water to half the cup of beans in the same food processor and blenderize until smooth. No need to clean any remaining pieces of the vegetables, they are all going into the same pot.
Add in the slenderized beans along with 3 cups of water. Once it comes to a boil, add in the second half of the beans, and then the pasta. This is now going to take at least 20 minutes to cook. You do not want the pasta al dente (firm) but you do not want it mushy either. This is why it is important to use a quality pasta. I prefer DeChecco, Lidia’s or any authentic brand from Italy that is actually air dried, not dried in an oven.
The last key to this is to slowly mix in grated parmesan cheese. Add it slowly and stir in so it does not clump up. In addition, you want to serve this with grated cheese on the side, and I even prefer it with a drizzle of good quality extra virgin olive oil.