Pasta e fagioli is a familiar dish you never get tired of. It’s comforting, calming, and delicious. It is also inexpensive, easy to make, and allows every cook to give it their own spin.
Use thyme or bay leaves, change the beans, use up what is in your pantry or buy your favorite kind. Pancetta is easy to find and always a great flavour-building block. Or you can forego the meat, add more onions and carrots, toss in a well-scrubbed Parmigiano rind and make it vegetarian.
Viola Buitoni’s recipe for traditional pasta e fagioli
Ingredients (Serves 6-8 people)
2 cups uncooked cannellini, soaked overnight
1 small yellow onion
1 celery rib
1 pancetta slice, ¼" thick
1 small rosemary sprig
Olive oil, to taste
4 sage leaves
Salt, to taste
½ cup dry white wine
black pepper, to taste (you can also use red chili flakes if you prefer a little kick)
1 cup uncooked pasta (a small variety like tubetti is perfect, or broken-up spaghetti)
grated Parmigiano or Pecorino cheese for serving
Finely chop the onion, carrot, and celery together. Cut the pancetta into chunks and blend it in a food processor to make it into a paste. Strip the rosemary sprig and mince the needles finely.
A little tip: If you don’t have a food processor, put the pancetta in the freezer until it is quite hard but not entirely frozen. It will be easy to dice and then mince using a chef’s knife.
Coat the bottom of a wide and shallow saucepan with olive oil. Add the minced vegetables, pancetta, minced rosemary, and whole sage leaves. Season with a pinch of salt and sauté gently for 10 to 15 minutes until the pancetta is translucent and most of its fat has melted and the vegetables have softened and are beginning to turn blonde.
Drain and rinse the beans. Then stir them in, swirling and stirring for 2 to 3 minutes to coat them in deliciousness. Raise the heat to high and douse them with the wine. Wait until the wine no longer punches your nose and pinches your throat, but gently caresses your cheekbones and eyes instead.
Add 2 ½ times the water to the amount of beans and bring it to a boil. Lower the heat to medium-low, until there are gentle yet visible bubbles, season with 2 teaspoons of salt, partially cover, and cook until the beans are quite tender and almost melt in your mouth (about 1 hour).
Note that the cooking time depends on the kind of beans you are using and their age. Refer to the package or to your experience to gauge, keeping in mind that the older the beans, the longer they need.
For a creamier consistency, spoon about 1/2 cup of beans into a bowl and purée them with a handheld blender, then stir them back into the rest of the beans. Taste and adjust salt and pepper. Keep in mind that pasta e fagioli is a soup, so the beans should be fairly runny. If it seems too thick, you can use some hot water to dilute it.
In a separate pot of salted boiling water, cook the pasta quite al dente (or 3 to 4 minutes less than suggested on the package). Drain and combine the pasta with the beans. Serve steaming hot with a drizzle of fresh olive oil and grated cheese on the side.
Courtesy: lacucinaitaliana, Viola Buitoni