growing up, the italian side of my family was pretty influential... a few generations removed from italy, i was quite american, as my my dad married a non-italian girl making him pretty american (and obviously, that girl he married wasnt italian), but then there were my grandparents... neither was born in italy, but i believe their parents were, so they'd grown up pretty italian. and marrying eachother, they carried some of that into their own household. which means once i was old enough to spell, they would speak italian around me so that i didnt understand... (in hindsight, this excluded my mom as well... hmmm...)
anyway, despite my lack of any semblance of fluency in italian, there are certain words that i learned quite differently than you probably did...
we all know what mut-za-rell (mozzarella) is, but do you know what a ri-gut is? how about mana-gut? how about Jordan's favorite - gan-ool?
No? well, thats how my italian grandmother says ricotta (though, actually, we mostly called it pot cheese, which is apparently a cousin of ricotta...), manicotti and, jordan's favorite - cannoli...
and thats how i said all of those things until probably some time in high school when i discovered the Olive Garden or something...
anyway, whats my point? Oh, i'm getting there - i promise... anyway, when i was in high school, my father used to make us pastavazool... and just like manicotti and canolli before it, i had no earthly idea that it was not spelled the way it sounded. in fact, i dont think that i knew that it was something that anyone other than my family ate. i mean, it was called pastavazool for chrissake - my dad must have made that up, right? that word cant be real, can it?
So imagine my non-italian high-school boyfriends amusement when we were at his house one day, raiding the pantry, and i pulled out a can and asked him what 'pasta E fag-e-oli' was... he's all - 'are you kidding? your dad makes it all the time!' and i'm all like, 'HUH? thats how you spell that??? for real??? how in the world is pasta e fagioli possibly pastavazool???'
anyway, i dont know that i'd had pasta e fagioli since high school but during this past week, when it was snowing - YET AGAIN - i wanted something warm and hearty... and i got pasta e fagioli in my head and went recipe searching... yet nothing i found was really right. pasta e fagioli translates to 'pasta with beans', so why was i finding so many recipes with MEAT in them? or weird spices? or no tomatoes? or - the weirdest one of all - pureed beans? wha-? none of them lived up to my memory, so i set out to create my own... a little from here, a little from there and a lot from my memory...
In the end, i dont know how close i was to what my dad used to make, but what i came up with is definitely "pasta with beans", heartier than a soup, 100% vegetarian (and would be vegan if you skip the parmesan on top) and exactly what a cold, snowy night calls for.
Pasta e Fagioli
courtesy of me
click here to import recipe directly into Pepperplate
~ 2/3 of a box of ditalini pasta
1 - 2 tbsp olive oil
3/4 of a vidalia onion, diced
1 small carrot, diced
1 small celery heart, diced
4 cloves garlic, smashed & roughly chopped
1.5 tsp minced fresh sage (or .5 tsp dried sage)
1.5 tsp minced fresh oregano (or .5 tsp dried oregano)
1 tbsp minced fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried thyme. dried rosemary isnt so great...)
1 tsp dried basil (or 1 tbsp fresh basil)
1 can stewed tomatoes (not drained)
2 c vegetable broth, divided (feel free to use chicken or beef broth if you are not vegetarian)
1 can diced tomatoes, drained
1 can cannelini beans
1 can red kidney beans
~ 12 turns of a pepper grinder - probably about 1/2 tsp if you do not have freshly ground pepper
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (optional)
2 - 3 dashes tabasco (optional)
These directions are incredibly flexible. Below i'm giving you approximate cooking times, but all were determined by how long it took me to get to the next step...
Prepare pasta - cooking ~ 3 minutes less than the time indicated on the box for al dente pasta. Set aside.
In a large, heavy pot (i used this one) heat oil over medium - medium-high heat until it shimmers
dump in the onion, stir briefly to coat all with oil and let it cook while you chop up your carrot, celery and garlic. (for me, this was about 5 minutes...)
Add the carrots, celery and garlic & stir to combine. let it cook while you start chopping herbs - again, probably about 5 minutes. The veggies will be soft and might start to brown every so slightly.
Add the chopped herbs. I used the fresh/dried combination shown above because its what i had on hand... see my notes above about exchanges you can do between fresh & dried herbs...
mix and cook ~ 1 minute
Add the stewed tomatoes & their juices along with 1 c of the broth. Break up the tomatoes with a wooden spoon and allow to cook ~ 5 minutes.
Briefly remove from heat and puree ~ 1/3 - 1/2 of what is in the pot. You want to break up any large chunks of anything but not reduce it to mush... You can do this in a blender, food processor, with an immersion blender - whatever works for you - just be careful as the liquid is hot!
return the entire thing to the pot and return the pot to medium heat...
simmer 2 - 3 minutes.
add the drained diced tomatoes, the remaining cup of broth & both cans of beans (dont forget to rinse them)
along with ~ 12 turns of the pepper grinder (in a cooking class we took at Miette Culinary Studio we learned that fresh pepper should be used in a ratio of 3 turns of the grinder per serving as this is what most people will ask for in a restaurant. I always like to leave a little room, so i dialed it back to the equivalent of 4 servings worth of pepper because you can always add more later... and jordan did...)
add the crushed red pepper & tabasco, if desired. stir to combine and allow to simmer another few minutes.
Add the not-quite-cooked pasta, stir to combine and allow to simmer ~ 5 more minutes. Taste the pasta to ensure that it is cooked through and once it is, remove from heat.
Serve with freshly shaved parmigiano reggiano (if you have it or any other grated cheese if you dont) and crusty bread.
reheating note: this reheats fantastically. I packed some up for lunch - added a generous amount of parmesan cheese to it while it was still cold - and reheated it in the microwave at work for about 2 minutes, stirring once.