I don’t make soup enough, but when I do, the first thing I think of is pasta fagioli, which my mother would often make on meat-free Fridays. I’m a bean-eater any day of the week, and really savor the creamy, filling quality of cannellini beans, especially when paired with pasta.
My version is not much like my mom’s however. Her recipe was the more quick and convenient one, employing canned beans, dried Italian seasoning and lots of watered down tomato sauce.
I know I enjoyed it as a kid, but now I prefer a thicker, heartier soup. I go all out and use dried beans. The texture and flavor is a lot better than canned beans, although I will use them in a pinch.
This time, I also added a prosciutto butt that I picked up at my local Italian market. It’s inexpensive and adds lots of flavor to the beans.
Makes at least 6 servings
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 finely chopped onion
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh rosemary
4 cups cooked cannellini beans * or 2 15-ounce cans, drained
1 15-ounce can crushed tomatoes, or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, peeled ** and chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
4-6 cups chicken broth or water
Salt and fresh ground black pepper
2 cups small, short pasta, such as ditali
Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese for serving
Heat oil in a large pot or Dutch oven over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic and rosemary to the pot and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Scoop out and transfer to a food processor along with 1 cup of beans. Puree until smooth.
Return bean mixture to the pot along with the remaining beans, tomatoes, red pepper and 4 cups broth. Season well with salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer; add the pasta and simmer until al dente. Add more broth to the soup to thin as desired- the pasta will continue to absorb liquid, and it does thicken up a bit. I kind of like it that way.
Serve soup topped with Parmigiano curls shaved with a vegetable peeler.
* To cook dried beans, soak in water to cover 2-6 hours or overnight. Drain, place in a pot with fresh water to cover and a bay leaf. Toss in a ham hock or prosciutto butt if you have one. Bring to a boil, then turn down the heat and simmer until the beans are swelled and softened. This should take 1-2 hours.
** To peel a fresh tomato, score an “X” on the bottom and drop in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove, cool under cold running water and slip off the skin.