Pasta e Fagioli - Pasta and Bean Soup

Homemade Pasta e Fagioli - Pasta and Bean Soup

I love Pasta e Fagioli. I've made quick versions at home using canned tomato sauce and canned beans and I've eaten super authentic regional versions in restaurants, but I've never gone whole hog and made a traditional Pasta e Fagioli at home. Dinner tonight is another Marcella Hazan inspired dish. I say inspired because, unlike the potato gnocchi I made earlier, I did not follow her recipe exactly, and instead adapted and pleased myself using her recipe as a starting point.

Boozy Epicure's Pasta e Fagioli
Recipe adapted from Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking
In the past I've used cannellini beans, but Marcella says that cranberry beans are classic, and who am I to argue? She also used a homemade meat broth that I've substituted with homemade chicken stock and purchased beef broth. She does not use the bay leaf or parsley, but I like them, so I'm using them. She also prefers pork ribs, I've subbed fresh ham hock, and she uses less canned tomato (2/3 cup vs the 1 and 1/2 cups I get from one small can.)

1 cup dried cranberry beans
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 sweet onion, finely chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
2 ribs of celery, chopped
2 fresh (unsmoked) ham hocks
1 small can Italian peeled tomatoes
2 cups homemade chicken stock (pulled from my freezer)
4 cups low sodium beef broth
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 pound ditalini (or other small) pasta
1 tblsp butter
freshly ground parmigiano reggiano
chopped parsley, to garnish

This soup starts the night before. Take 1 cup of the dried cranberry beans and soak them in at least 3 times their amount of water overnight.

Beans presoak.
Beans after overnight soak.
The next day, rinse the beans, place in a saucepan with fresh water, bring them to a boil, and simmer until tender, about one hour. Leave them in their water until you are ready to use in the soup.

Put the olive oil and chopped onion in your soup pot and place over medium heat. Cook, stirring it, until the onions turn pale gold. Add the carrots and celery, stir to combine, then add the ham hock. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring and turning the meat and veggies from time to time.

Veggies and ham hock cooking together.
Add the canned tomatoes and their juice and simmer together for about 20 minutes then add the drained beans, stirring well, and cook for 5 more minutes before adding the broth/stock and bay leaf. Bring the pot to a gentle boil, simmer 20 more minutes, then taste to check for seasonings adding salt and pepper to taste.

Tomatoes and beans cooking down.
Broth added, ready to simmer and reduce.

Scoop up about a half cup of beans and mash them through a food mill (Marcella's advice, I don't have one so I used a potato ricer) and add them back to the soup pot.

You now need to check the thickness of your soup. If you are planning on eating it all at one time, make sure the soup has enough liquid to cook the pasta. If, like me, you plan on eating only part of the soup, cook to al dente just the portion of pasta you need for tonight in a separate pot, and when done, ladle the thick soup over the individual bowls of pasta. Marcella suggests you finish the soup with a tblsp of butter and cheese, I prefered a little nub of butter and cheese on each bowl, then parsley sprinkled on top. Let the soup bowls rest at least 5 minutes before you eat, this is another Marcella suggestion. The soup is better nice and warm, but not boiling hot.

Cooked ditalini in bowl.
Soup added on top.

Finished soup, garnished with butter, pamigiano and parsley.

Labels: , , ,