Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Pasta and Beans: Pasta e Fagioli

When we lived in Germany for three years, we traveled to Italy several times.  One of those visits was a girls trip with my mom, aunt, cousin and grandmother.  It was a total blast and was very adventurous.  One of the best parts of Italy is, of course, the food. I had made this dish before and ordered it a a restaurant there in Italy on that trip.  I made them all try it.  There was a different flavor in it that I not used to in the times I had had it in restaurants in the stateside and when I had made it myself, and I figured out it was rosemary.   It adds a layer of flavor and really makes the dish.  

This is one of my favorite dishes.  It has all the character of comfort food without the calories usually associated with it.  The flavors get better the longer it sits and are able to meld together.  It is both delicate and rich and will fill you.  I left out the pancetta because I don't like pork, and the greens in this one because my youngest ones don't like them yet, but normally I add it. Beet greens are the best!  This meal comes together in about a half hour, but let it rest for 10 minutes or so.  Trust me, it is worth the wait!  This is a fantastic and quick meal that you will make again and again. 



 Pasta and Beans: Pasta e Fagioli


  • 2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/8 pound (about 3 slices) pancetta, chopped (optional)
  • 2 (4 to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left intact
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 1 small carrot, finely chopped
  • 1 rib celery, finely chopped
  • 4-6 large cloves garlic, chopped or crushed
  • Coarse salt and pepper
  • fresh green like spinach or beet greens or escarole roughly chopped to bite size
  • 2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans
  • 1 can fire roasted tomatoes
  • 1 quart chicken stock (or veg stock)
  • 1 lb cooked ditalini
  • Grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
  • Crusty bread, for mopping


Heat a deep pot or large skillet over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta. Brown the pancetta bits lightly, and add herb stems and chopped vegetables. Season vegetables with salt and pepper.  Let cook for 5-10 minutes until golden and fragrant.  Add garlic and cook 1 minute more. Add one can of beans with the juice and one that has been rinsed and drained, diced tomatoes and stock* to pot and raise heat to high. Bring soup to a simmer and meanwhile cook pasta al dente.**  Rosemary leaves may separate from stems as soup cooks. Remove herb stems from soup, add pasta and greens and bring to simmer until greens wilt and then place pot on table on a trivet. Let soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with lots of grated cheese and a drizzle of good olive oil. Pass crusty bread for bowl mopping.

*I don't add all of the stock in the pan.  Just enough to keep the veggies afloat (about 2 cups).  I add more to each individual bowl because this makes a ton and there are almost always leftovers.  If you add it all the pasta in the leftovers absorbs the liquid and gets mushy. 

** al dente is an Italian term which means "to the tooth" or "to the bite", referring to the need to chew the pasta due to its firmness.  It is to be cooked so as to be firm but not hard. "Al dente" also describes vegetables that are cooked to the "tender crisp" phase.

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