Sunday February 22, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli

On a rainy Sunday Pasta e Fagioli is a winner. It is an Italian peasant dish and one of the most soul satisfying dishes when you are cuddled up at home. It is a combination of beans and pasta simmered in a tomato broth. The starch of both the beans and pasta thicken the broth and when you see the pasta look a bit swollen, unlike the al dente I usually prefer when eating a pasta dish, you know that you have achieved greatness. There are two ways to go with the beans. Dry or canned. It depends on how much time you have or want to spend but if you have the patience, dried is the way to go because you have the bean liquor that is left when the beans are done cooking and it adds a nice depth of flavor to this dish. I also start out with the soffritto preparation, like my pasta sauce for My Spaghetti and Meatballs. The slower you go with building this dish the more satisfying it will taste. You could always modify this recipe with canned beans and skip the soffritto step with good results if you need something quicker. Another plus is that this dish heats up perfectly for next day left overs.


Pasta e Fagioli
Be careful as this cooks making sure it does not stick to the bottom and burn. Once you have all of the ingredients in the pot, make sure to bring the heat down to simmer and stir from the bottom occasionally. I like to use dark red kidney beans in this dish though white cannellini are traditional. I like the rich color they impart.
For the Beans:

1 cup dried red kidney beans

Rinse the beans in cold water and then soak the beans overnight. Next drain the soaking water and add the beans to a large pot covering the beans with water by 2 inches. Bring the mixture to boil, cover with the lid and then turn the heat down to simmer for about 1-1/2 hours until the beans are tender and cooked through. This is very important for this dish because in the second cooking the tomato broth will not be able to tenderize the beans much further. Reserve the beans and cooking liquor. Can be done a day ahead.

3 tablespoons Olive oil
2 stalk celery, fine diced
2 small carrots, fine diced
1 small onion, fine diced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
3 cloves Garlic, minced
4 cups Chicken broth

Heat the oil and sauté the celery, carrots and onion on medium-high heat with a teaspoon of kosher salt. Once the mixture has come up to heat turn down to low, and simmer slowly to draw out the flavors. About 10 minutes into the cooking add the garlic and finish cooking for about 10 more minutes until the vegetables are soft and light brown. This method is also called soffritto in Italian. Add the chicken broth.

3 cups cooked dark red kidney beans or 2 cans dark red kidney beans
1 ¼ cups salad macaroni
1 ½ cups Marinara sauce, homemade or your favorite bottled pasta sauce
Salt and pepper to taste

Parmesan cheese to garnish

Add all ingredients into the vegetable, chicken broth mixture and stir until combined. Cook on medium-low, stirring occasionally, until most of the liquid has been absorbed. The pasta should be swollen and slightly over cooked. Drizzle with olive oil and adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
Serve with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 6