The penultimate comfort food for me on a cold February Sunday is Pasta e Fagioli. I was inspired by a Food52 recipe, although as I began to follow it, I found it to be confusing. So I will give you my take on it, which fortunately, came out great. Even Barbara liked it.
It really does help having some top-notch beans already prepared in the refrigerator, but it can be done with beans from a can with little loss of fidelity. Warning: this version is what I would call “quasi-vegan”:
- finely chop a small onion and a couple of cloves of garlic
- cut three small slices from a log of pancetta (we always have a piece in the freezer), and cut into a small dice
- take one stalk of celery and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
- open one can of your best Italian peeled whole tomatoes (28 oz.–we will use half of it)
- open a can of cannellini beans (or in this case back up three days and prepare a pound of red Tolosa beans from Spain, soaking overnight and cooking slowly in a terra cotta bean pot)
- measure out about 1 cup of ditali or ditalini pasta
- pinch off some of your best Greek or Italian dried oregano from the stems
- select about a pint of good-quality broth — preferably vegetable, but any will do
Start a sauté pan with about 1 Tbs. of olive oil. Add the pancetta and cook until lightly browned and a little crisp. Add the onion and garlic and cook until tender and translucent (whatever that means). Add the celery, and cook for 2 minutes. Add the broth and simmer for five minutes. Boil a pot of salted water and precook the pasta for about 10 minutes (al dente).
In a bowl, mash about 1/3 of the cooked beans. Then add them and the other whole beans, along with the chopped tomatoes and dried oregano to the pot with the broth and aromatics. Finally, add the cooked pasta and simmer all together for about 10 minutes. Add a little pasta water if the sauce is too thick. The consistency you want is halfway between a thick soup and a pasta sauce. Garnish with chopped parsley and/or grated parmesan cheese. (I used neither.) Serve with a glass of Li Veli Passamante Negroamaro.
No photos, sorry, I was too eager to consume it. Later, after lunch, I was enthralled in my research to find that Bugialli had 20 pages of pasta e fagioli to begin his book on Pasta, so I have a number of new recipes to try. Some have tomato, others do not. Some are with dried pasta, others are fresh. And the one that intrigues me most contains lentils and 4 different kinds of dried beans. It is Calabrian, and it will be in my future.