Pasta e Fagioli

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This weekend I lit the first fire of the season. There isn’t much better than a Friday night at home with friends, the dog, a fire in the fireplace, great wine, crispy bread and a hearty homemade soup. This recipe for Pasta e Fagioli is from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian. The soup is so thick it’s basically a pasta sauce. I even added an extra can of crushed tomatoes to thin it out and add more tomato flavor. You can adjust the flavors and thickness to your liking.

This recipe requires extra steps but all are really simple. The rewards are worth it – my friend’s gave the soup rave reviews.

Pasta s Fagiolo from Franny’s Simple Seasonal Italian

For the Beans

  • 2½ cups dried borlotti or cranberry beans (about 1 pound)

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 1½ teaspoons kosher salt

  • 3 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano rinds

  • 2½ ounces prosciutto trimmings or prosciutto

  • ½ onion

  • 5 garlic cloves

  • 1 sage sprig

  • 1 rosemary sprig

For the Soup

  • 1 cup finely chopped pancetta (5 ounces)

  • 1 cup finely chopped onion

  • ¼ cup finely chopped carrot

  • ¼ cup finely chopped celery

  • 5 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 2 teaspoons finely chopped sage

  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped rosemary

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons tomato paste

  • ⅓ cup canned San Marzano tomatoes, chopped

  • ¾ cup ditalini or other small dried pasta

  • Kosher salt

  • Finely grated Pamigiano-Reggiano

  • Extra-virgin olive oil

To make the beans: Place them in a large bowl with plenty of cold water to cover and let stand for 8 hours or overnight.

Drain the beans and place in a large pot. Cover with 6 cups water. Stir in the olive oil and salt. Wrap the Parmigiano rinds, prosciutto, onion, garlic cloves, sage, and rosemary in a large square of cheesecloth and secure with kitchen twine or a tight knot. Drop into the pot of beans. Bring the water to a boil over high heat; then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer the beans until tender and creamy, 45 minutes to 1 hour; add more water as needed to keep the beans fully covered. Remove from the heat and discard the sachet.

To make the soup: In a large skillet, cook the pancetta over medium-high heat until it is crisp and most of the fat has rendered, about 7 minutes. Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, sage, and rosemary, and cook, stirring, until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

Add the tomato paste and cook for about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are very soft and the tomatoes’ juices have mostly evaporated, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove from the heat.

Transfer the vegetables and half the beans and their liquid to a food processor, working in batches if necessary. Puree until smooth. Return the mixture to the pot of beans and cook over medium heat until warmed through; add water if needed to reach the desired consistency. Keep warm.

In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente; drain.

Spoon the pasta into individual serving bowls. Ladle the hot soup over the pasta. Finish with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, salt to taste, and a drizzle of olive oil.

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