One of the popular choices for a first course, or primo, in Italy that I haven't hit on yet is soup. That all changed last night when I made a classic soup dish from Veneto, Pasta e Fagioli. Far from a light soup, this dish, though not boasting any real thickness in its broth, exudes heartiness in its main ingredients of beans, pasta, and pancetta. Filling enough to really be a full meal if you wanted it to, this dish is also something that can be thrown together surprisingly quickly. Last night when I made this I had an hour from the time I got home to the time we had to run out the door again to cook, eat dinner, and get ready to go out. Somehow I managed to, in that small window of time, produce a delicious soup dinner (with Ryan's help of course)!
Pasta e Fagioli
Adapted from Chow
1 1/2 cups cannellini beans (about 1 can)
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, chopped
3 strips bacon, cut into small pieces OR 3 ounces pancetta
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 teaspoon dried Rosemary
1/4 teaspoon dried thyme
4 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups chicken broth
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 cup dried pasta such as macaroni or ditalini
Salt and pepper to taste
2 ounces Parmigiano Reggiano, grated
- Put 1/2 cup of the cannellini beans and the water in a food processor and blend until smooth. Set aside.
- Heat olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion and bacon or pancetta and cook about 3-4 minutes or until the onions are soft and translucent.
- Add the garlic, rosemary, and thyme and cook about 1 minute.
- Stir in the tomato paste and cook about 2 minutes so that the paste begins to meld with the other ingredients.
- Add the chicken broth, remaining 1 cup beans, and red pepper flakes and stir well. Let simmer for about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, bring a small saucepan of water to a boil and salt generously. Add the pasta and cook about 5 minutes. The pasta should be only partially cooked at this point. Drain the pasta.
- After done simmering, add the pasta and bean puree to the soup. Let simmer for another 5 minutes or until the pasta is al dente.
- Salt and pepper to taste. Serve into bowls and top with some grated Parmigiano Reggiano.
Note: If you are planning on making a lot of this and storing it for leftovers, be aware that the pasta will absorb a lot of the broth over time. However, the broth also becomes thicker though, and as I can attest to since I just ate it for lunch, the leftovers are delicious as is. But, if you don't want to deal with the absorption and the thickening, etc., a solution would be to cook the pasta all the way to al dente in step 6. Then, just add the pasta individually to each bowl of soup. Reserve extra pasta separately to add to the leftover soup as you eat it.
Ryan's rating of Pasta e Fagioli - 4.5