Wish Upon A Dish: Pasta e Fagiole

November 2, 2010

Pasta e Fagiole

Pasta e fagioli or pasta fagioli, meaning "pasta and beans", is a traditional meatless Italian dish. Like many other Italian favorites including pizza and polenta, the dish started as a peasant dish, due to cheaply available beans and pasta. Today it can be widely found, even in restaurants that do not feature Italian cuisine. It is also called pasta fazool or pastafazool colloquially in the United States, arising from Italian-American (from Sicilian) slang.

Pasta fagioli is made using cannellini beans or borlotti beans and some type of small pasta such as elbow macaroni or ditalini. The base is generally olive oil, garlic, minced onion, and spices, along with stewed tomatoes or tomato paste, or traditionally, in home recipes, the leftover Sunday "gravy". Some variations do not include tomatoes at all, and are made from a broth. Modern restaurant recipes often include an Italian meat such as prosciutto.

The consistency of the dish can vary, as some renditions fall clearly in the soup category, usually because the tomato was left out, while others are much thicker.

My mother made hers more like a minestrone with various vegetables added. Probably in an attempt to get us kids to eat more vegetables.

By the time I was done with hers the only thing in my soup bowl was the beans....lol.
I did eat the vegetables. I hated beans, I refused to eat them, as I'm sure every house in America with kids has gone through that.

I like this recipe for a kid friendly meal because you puree the beans and vegetables into a thick stock and the kids think they are eating pasta soup. For the adult you can reserve some beans and add them right before serving.

Either way, it is a healthy and tasty soup and yes, I am using leftover Sunday gravy.

Pasta e Fagiole
(Adapted from Memorie di Angelina)
Saute a slightly crushed garlic clove in olive oil, a sprig of rosemary--and if you want, a bit of chopped pancetta, minced carrots, paprika, a bay leaf, some Italian seasonings, freshly ground black pepper and/or parsley. (Each of these adds another layer of flavor.) When the aroma of the garlic and rosemary begins wafting about, add some crushed tomato (the amount will depend on how 'red' you want the dish) and simmer for a few minutes. Add a can of beans (I am using Navy beans), well drained and rinsed, and allow them to insaporire (absorb the flavors of the tomato and aromatics) for 5 minutes or so.

Add water or broth to cover the beans, simmer for another 5 minutes. I added a cheese rind for flavor. It lends a depth of that goes so well with a bean based soup.

To thicken the soup, either crush some of the beans against the side of the pot or, for a more refined effect, scoop up about a third of them and pass them through a food mill back into the pot. They will 'melt' into the liquid and thicken the soup. Add slightly underdone pasta. I usually use ditalini but other small 'soup' pastas will also do fine.

Simmer for a minute or two more. When the pasta is cooked al dente, turn off the heat (adding a bit more water if needed) and cover the pot and allow it to 'rest' for 3-5 minutes.

Serve with a drizzle of olive oil or a good grinding of black pepper--or both. Some folks like to add grated cheese on top.

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