This week marked the christening of our very own kitchen in our new home. That’s right! No more tiny 600 square foot apartment for us. We now have over 1900 square feet to spread our junk around in. (And I’m sure if you ask our wonderful friends who helped us move, they would attest to our amazing ability to cram so much stuff into such a small apartment. Although they might use less pretty words. We love you, we thank you and we’re sorry!)

After the stress of the move was over, Matt, like he always does after big events in our life, came down with a cold. As late September brought in the chilly signs of fall, I decided we needed some warm comfort food. That morning I spent a few minutes looking up Pasta Fagioli recipes online and sent three that looked interesting over to Dad. Among them were two from allrecipes.com and one from foodnetwork.com by Giada De Laurentiis. Without hesitation, Dad’s choice was clear.

Dad: “Ooo.. Giada. Let’s do that one!”

Me: “Yeah, she’s the one from Food Network with all the teeth.” (I swear, that woman has about 87 teeth in her mouth. It’s unnatural.)

Dad: “That’s not all she’s got.”

Good Lord. Clearly my Dad is taken in easily by the eye candy.

Still sore from helping us move, Dad hobbled over to our new house and we got started on a double recipe of Pasta Fagioli. We did a few things differently than the original recipe. I wanted to use ditalini pasta instead of elbow macaroni. It’s has a little more of a traditional look based on other soups I’ve had in Italian restaurants. We also did not have a cheesecloth to make a sachet of the herbs, so Dad crushed up the rosemary as fine as he could, we used a little ground thyme and I tossed in the bay leaves loose, making sure to fish them out with a slotted spoon before serving. I also like white cannellini beans in my soup, so we got a little creative and split the ingredients, using two cans of white and two cans of red.

There was an Italian take-out place that used to sell the best Pasta Fagioli. Back before my freelance days, I spent many late nights in the office with a cup of that great soup to keep me company. There was something about the broth that was so good, sorta creamy and full of flavor, but I just couldn’t put my finger how to get it that way. This recipe may have revealed the secret. Half way through the cooking process, you remove 2 cups of the bean and broth mixture, puree it in a blender, and return it to the pot to mix with the soup. In another slight variation, we also added one can of diced tomatoes to the blender, to add a little color and a slight tomato flavor. This extra step thickened the broth just enough, somewhere between watery broth and thick chowder. I use cannellini beans when I make tomato sauce from scratch and I think I may try this blending method to see what happens.

For me, it’s rare for a recipe to come out so close to a good old memory. Your imagination always tastes better than real life. This is an automatic favorite and comfort food keeper.


Here’s our recipe with the variations we did. For the original Giada recipe, see here.

Pasta Fagioli
Based On a Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis
Makes about 12 servings

Ingredients:

  • 1 tablespoon of ground thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of ground rosemary
  • 2 bay leaf
  • 2 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 2 cups chopped onion
  • 6 ounces pancetta, chopped
  • 4 teaspoons minced garlic (About 6 cloves)
  • 11.5 cups low-sodium, fat-free chicken broth (About 96 oz.)
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
  • 1 (14.5 ounce) can of diced tomatoes
  • 12 oz of ditalini pasta (A little less the a whole box)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, optional
  • 2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Directions:

1. Heat 2 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta, and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, and herbs.

2. Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaves with a slotted soup.

3. Puree 2 cups of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth*. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the dry pasta and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes.

4. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well. Season the soup with ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.

5. Ladle the soup into bowls. Sprinkle with some fresh grated Parmesan just before serving.

*When blending hot liquids: Remove liquid from the heat and allow to cool for at least 5 minutes. Transfer liquid to a blender or food processor and fill it no more than halfway. If using a blender, release one corner of the lid. This prevents the vacuum effect that creates heat explosions. Place a towel over the top of the machine, pulse a few times then process on high speed until smooth.

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