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Jaymes

Pasta e Fagioli

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I don't know exactly what the traditional variations are, but I see lots of recipes involving simmering a Parm rind in the soup, then removing it, which is how the cooks illustrated recipe I use does it. definitely adds a nice savory flavor.

I also thought I'd seen somewhere, perhaps on Bourdain, that in Italy, they stir the soup around the hollowed out center of a parm wheel to incorporate the cheese... Maybe this was another dish? Can't remember!

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Here's what I do:

Pasta e Fagioli

Start with about 1 cup of dried white kidney beans. (If you're in a hurry, use canned.)

In a large stew pot or Dutch oven, set the washed and picked-over beans to cook in about 1 qt flavorful chicken broth, along with 2 large cloves garlic, mashed and chopped. Bring the beans to a boil over high heat; then cover tightly and simmer slowly until they’re just barely tender. If they dry out before they're done, add a little more hot water/chicken broth/liquid, as needed. Monitor them very carefully, to be certain that you do not overcook them. You're going to add more ingredients later on and cook them some more and you don’t want them disintegrating into mush, so this is important.

While beans are cooking, prepare your seasonings.

Start with about as much good-quality, imported pancetta as you can afford. Try for at least ¼ pound. ½ pound is better. More than that is even more wonderful. If you’ve purchased it in a chunk, then chop it into medium-small dice. If you’ve bought slices, then julienne them. (Lately, I've been using a domestic brand that I buy at Costco/Sam's. It's not grand enough to just wrap around melon and serve, but cooked up in a soup, it's perfectly fine. And, it's affordable enough that I can use 1 pound, or even more.)

Put chopped pancetta into a skillet along with a couple tablespoons good, flavorful olive oil, 1 white or yellow onion chopped, 1 carrot peeled and chopped, 1 rib celery chopped, 2 more large cloves of garlic mashed and minced, 2 bay leaves, and about a tablespoon each of fresh rosemary and thyme. Saute until onions are clear and carrots and celery are tender and the whole thing looks “done.”

About 2/3rds of the way through the bean cooking time, add your seasonings to the bean pot. It takes about an average of 1 ½ hours for RG’s beans to get tender, so I add the seasonings at about the hour point. Stir in the seasonings, cover the bean pot and continue to let them simmer until just barely tender.

When the beans are just barely tender, add about 1 cup tomatoes. You can use chopped fresh tomatoes, or canned diced or crushed tomatoes, or tomato sauce. I’ve used left-over marinara, and it was great.

Give the pot a stir, and then turn heat to high. Add 2 cups more liquid – water or chicken broth. At this point, taste for salt, and add some if needed. When soup is boiling, add 1 ½ cups dry pasta. You can use small shells, elbow macaroni, ditalini, etc.

Reduce heat to medium and simmer briskly until pasta is al dente. Adjust seasonings. We like crushed red pepper, so we add that, along with black pepper.

Ladle soup into individual soup bowls and top with grated parmesan or Romano or whatever you like. Serve with crusty bread.

I've just tried to think back over what I do, so hope I haven't forgotten anything.

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My favorite version is this:

- put some olive oil in a pot

- add a clove of garlic

- add a sprig or two of rosemary

when you start to get a "the garlic is a cooking smell" throw in the cooked beans ( canned (already cooked) , dry, fresh, or frozen (to cook beforehand)

- add water and salt

- boil just a little bit

- pass all or most of the beans through a food mill

- put the bean mush in a pot (it should be a little liquidy because the pasta will absorb quite a bit of water)

- boil

. add dried spaghetti broken up into 2 inch size pieces

- cook for about 10 minutes

done.

(you can drizzle a little oil on the top if you like)

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I started this thread back in 2002. Ten years. Unbelievable.

To respond to somebody about the meat, I do use pancetta/proscuitto. I've found a domestic (US) version at Sam's/Costco that, while not as good as the real Italian stuff of course, also costs much, much less. I wouldn't use it to wrap a slice of juicy melon, but it's so affordable that we can put lots of it in this soup.

And it's spectacular.

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Here's what I do:

. . .

Start with about as much good-quality, imported pancetta as you can afford. Try for at least ¼ pound. ½ pound is better. More than that is even more wonderful. If you've purchased it in a chunk, then chop it into medium-small dice. If you've bought slices, then julienne them. (Lately, I've been using a domestic brand that I buy at Costco/Sam's. It's not grand enough to just wrap around melon and serve, but cooked up in a soup, it's perfectly fine. And, it's affordable enough that I can use 1 pound, or even more.)

To respond to somebody about the meat, I do use pancetta/proscuitto. I've found a domestic (US) version at Sam's/Costco that, while not as good as the real Italian stuff of course, also costs much, much less. I wouldn't use it to wrap a slice of juicy melon, but it's so affordable that we can put lots of it in this soup.

I'm confused. Do you use pancetta or proscuitto, or does it matter? Your comments about "wrapping around melon" make me think of proscuitto, but in your instructions you referred to pancetta, which seems to me to be a more natural choice.

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Here's what I do:

. . .

Start with about as much good-quality, imported pancetta as you can afford. Try for at least ¼ pound. ½ pound is better. More than that is even more wonderful. If you've purchased it in a chunk, then chop it into medium-small dice. If you've bought slices, then julienne them. (Lately, I've been using a domestic brand that I buy at Costco/Sam's. It's not grand enough to just wrap around melon and serve, but cooked up in a soup, it's perfectly fine. And, it's affordable enough that I can use 1 pound, or even more.)

To respond to somebody about the meat, I do use pancetta/proscuitto. I've found a domestic (US) version at Sam's/Costco that, while not as good as the real Italian stuff of course, also costs much, much less. I wouldn't use it to wrap a slice of juicy melon, but it's so affordable that we can put lots of it in this soup.

I'm confused. Do you use pancetta or proscuitto, or does it matter? Your comments about "wrapping around melon" make me think of proscuitto, but in your instructions you referred to pancetta, which seems to me to be a more natural choice.

Honestly, I like them both. Usually have used what I can find, or what is on sale. I've lived a lot of places where I can't get one or the other. It is a pretty boldly-flavored soup, so I don't find it critical to use one over the other. Either one beats beef, in our view.


Edited by Jaymes (log)

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Last night was my turn.  Some days ago I made up a pot of Rancho Gordo cranberry beans, pretty simple, with salt, sage, and olive oil.  Everything I had hoped but there was a lot left, and I wanted to make Pasta e Fagioli with the leftovers.

 

Never having made Pasta e Fagioli in my life, I consulted the three Italian cookbooks that I have, I believe nine versions Pasta e Fagioli  from the NY Times, and several other recipes online.  I had in mind just beans and pasta, but most authors seem to call for tomatoes in some way or fashion.  With all the diversity I realized I was pretty much on my own.

 

I prepared a tomato sauce of Pomi chopped tomatoes -- my favorite Italian brand -- which Cooks Illustrated detests because it contains neither salt nor citric acid.  I started with a chopped onion heated tenderly in olive oil for over half an hour without browning.  I added salt and a lot of sage.  (My sage plant still needed much more pruning.)

 

Then I added a portion of the tomato sauce to the beans, enough so that it looked right to me.  And some boxed organic chicken broth to thin it.  I boiled up some DeCecco orecchiette and plated (or maybe bowled) it with the sauce.

 

The flavor was excellent but the sauce was too thick.  It was more like pasta with cranberry bean sauce.  It was too heavy for my taste.  Next try I diluted the sauce pot with much more chicken broth (the rest of the box, to be honest).  And less than half as much orecchiette, cooked a little longer than before.  Pasta e Fagioli is not the time for al dente orecchiette.  At least in my experience.

 

This time perfection -- with parsley and parmesan and pepper.  And much soave.  I finished the whole pot, three or four large bowlsful...if sadly not the full 1.5 liter bottle.  An awful, awful lot of thujone and sage.  Fortunately (at least according to Wikipedia) ethanol protects from thujone intoxication.

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Thrilled to see this topic re-emerge. It's such a wonderful soup - one of the world's great classic dishes. 

 

While Houston definitely isn't digging out of a two-foot snowfall, it did get pretty cold (for Houston) and wet here, and I naturally thought of pasta y fagioli, so made up a nice big pot.

 

Pre-Rancho-Gordo, just used ordinary beans. Didn't think this delicious soup could get any better.  But now, of course, with his marvelous beans, it has.

 

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