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Venetian Bean Soup


Suvir Saran
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I have been introduced to this soup by Ed Schoenfeld.

The soup called Venetian Bean Soup at Le Zie, in Chelsea, NYC, is superb.

When I asked the server what beans the chef was using, he said pinto beans. It comes garnished with a fruity olive oil and with pasta inside the soup. I add some grated parmesan into it. It seems like the soup has lots of pureed beans in it and they leave a good amount whole to play against the texture given by the perfectly cooked pasta.

Could this really be an authentic Venetian Style Soup? Is it one of many variations that are popular? Does every restaurant and home chef have their own take on a soup like this?

Any recipes that one could work with to make a soup that is similar to what I mention and also traditional?

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Suvir,

This sounds like a version of pasta e fagiole. I've had it soup, and borlotti beans are very similar to pinto beans.

You can cook the beans (I like to do them in the oven, I think it's described somewhere on this thread), take some out and puree or mash them, than add cooked pasta (some recipes add a small amouint of tomato paste to the beans as well). Drizzle with lots of the best oil you can afford.

There's another soup made in Trieste (the recipe is, I think, in Marcella's Classics book) that uses borlotti beans with pork, but no pasta.

Jim

olive oil + salt

Real Good Food

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Bean soups are common today throughout Italy, but they are a little more common as you move south. Tuscany is of course famous for all types of bean dishes. Venetian Bean Soup is most probably not actually a Venetian dish but somebody liked the name at some point. Pasta e Fagoli is now served throughout Italy but was not born in the north, but in most likely somewhere in central Italy. I would say that Jim's idea is probably right on the money.

Without more specific information is is hard to determine what this dish actually is - and let's face it Italian restaurants in the USA use names because the sound good, not always because they are authentic.

Edited by Craig Camp (log)
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There's a recipe for Pasta e fagioli soup in Venetian Taste -- the recipe is attributed to Venetian-born Francesco Antonucci. It sounds very similar to what is served at Le Zie.

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Craig has it right. The people in my area, the Piemonte, refer to the Tuscans as "the bean eaters"! The Tuscans, having never come up with a snappy retort, instead take out their hostility on the Bolognese, referring to Bologna as "Bologna the Fat". And so it goes. I, too, believe that Jim is right about the borlotti beans. It has always seemed particularly un-Italian to me to double up on the starches that way, but they do it to such good effect. See also ribolla, the famous Tuscan bread soup.

Bill Klapp

bklapp@egullet.com

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There are recipes for Venetian pasta e fasioi (venetian dialect) in Venetian Taste, and in La Tavola Italiana. The bean that would be used in Venice is called Lamon, a kind of cranberry bean. I think I've seen these, sold dried, at the Italian store in the Chelsea Market in NY.

There is also a good description of Venetian pasta e fasioi in Waverly Root's The Food of Italy. He writes that this widely known Venetian bean soup is actually more complicated than it sounds, made with fresh or dried white beans, but preferably the dried beans of Lamon, in the Veneto province of Belluno, which is famous for them. The beans are soaked overnight, and then added to the pot with sauteed chopped onions, and cooked in beef consomme, and slowly cooked for about 4 hours. Some of the beans are forced through a sieve toward the end; the pasta is added for the last few minutes. A marrow bone, rosemary, parlsey or garlic might also be added to enhance flavor.

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And how does your mother prepare her Croatian version??

Soak dried borlotti beans overnight (has to be borlotti beans). Place soaked beans pot of water, bring to boil. Discard water and add beans to fresh pot of water. Bring slowly to simmer. To this add sauteed onion, carrot & celery (including celery tops). Add one smoked ham hock or ribs if you are feeling poor. I think that this is an Austro-Hungarian influence. Add about ten garlic cloves (peeled), one tablespoon of very good grade paprika (A-H's again) and a tablespoon of tomato paste. Plenty of black pepper.

Cook slowly until beans are almost cooked, but not falling apart and meat is tender. Add pasta and cook for a further until pasta is cooked (soft, not al dente). Some of the beans can be pureed and added back to the soup. The ham is removed and either - eaten seperately or chopped up and added to the soup. Soup is served with olive oil pured on top.

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