Sunday Pasta®: Pasta e Fagioli
On this Valentine’s Day, I reflect back to when I first met Patricia, the ideal modern woman, desirable on so many levels: strong, artistic, beautiful and smart. I placed her high up on a pedestal. And being the saint that I am, I did this despite the fact that her cooking skills left something to be desired… Judge not, I thought, she is a victim of the times — times during which it was simply not fashionable to “just stay home to bake cookies.” But she loves good food and is a quick study, and so this week (after many culinary renditions of “the rain in Spain stays mainly in the plain”) I am most pleased to debut Patricia’s version of Pasta e Fagioli! You’ve come a long way baby! And I must say, as an ideal modern man, that I am ecstatic that American society now recognizes that the art of cooking transcends both gender and politics. Cooking is giving and giving is love. And love is universal. So grab a friend and cook your heart out. Spread your love with food. And this week, do it with Patricia’s Pasta e Fagioli!
p.s. And Patricia, I love you! Baci.
Like so many popular Italian dishes, there are multiple versions of Pasta e Fagioli. I’d say one for each region, but it’s more like one for each town, or one for each kitchen. You can use any type of beans, broth instead of water, or add tomatoes, prosciutto, any variety of spices like bay leaf, parsley, sage, thyme, basil, etc., and instead of short pasta, you can simply break long pasta into pieces.
p.s. Check out our wine pairings to compliment this dish.
Dice the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and sauté them in a deep pot until translucent. Add the basil. Chop the pancetta into bite sized pieces, and in a separate skillet, cook until golden brown. Add the pancetta to the vegetables and cook over low heat for a few minutes. (If you are using dry beans, they must be soaked overnight and then covered in water and boiled for at least 15 minutes, or until tender. If using canned beans, rinse them under cold water.) Place about 1/3 of the beans in a small bowl and mash them with a fork until they become a paste. Add the remaining beans and the bean paste to the vegetable mixture, and the salt and pepper, and mix the ingredients together for another minute over low heat. Immediately add about 4-6 cups of water, so that the beans are covered. Add the bay leaf. Turn the heat to high until the liquid is boiling, and then add the pasta. Cook the pasta for the duration its package’s cooking instructions, but not longer. The pasta should remain al dente. Add additional water if there is insufficient liquid. Depending on your preference, the result should be a thick soup. Serve immediately with a generous sprinkle of Parmigiano, and salt and pepper to taste.
(If you use dried beans, they must be soaked overnight and boiled for 15 minutes.)