Saturday, March 25, 2017

Pasta Fazool - Pasta and Beans

Tonight I'm making the classic Pasta Fazool. The Italian name is Pasta e Fagioli, but of course you can also just call it pasta with beans.

Julian's Pasta Fazool
While this is a classic Italian hearty soup, it is pretty time consuming and has many steps. If you don't have a food processor I would say to skip this recipe. Otherwise you are in for quite a lot of work. If you're in a hurry, this isn't the dish you want to make.

With that said, I do like to make a batch once each winter. A good hearty soup like chili, pasta fazool has its own special flavor and this batch makes quite a lot. Plenty of left overs will be available, or you can feed a family of 10-12.

When you travel through Italy, and I've seen most of the country, you find that there are as many version of Pasta Fazool as there are people. I've not had two that are exactly the same. My recipe is what I remember from my childhood and similar to that of TV chef Lida Bastianich. You can make yours however you like it best, but I'll share my recipe below. I don't follow the recipe closely and use what I have on hand. This batch has more pasta in it than usual as I was trying to use up some leftover.

Pasta Fazool

(Serves 8-12)
In the pot ready to boil.
1 pound dry cannellini (white kidney) beans
5 quarts water
3 Idaho baking potatoes, peeled whole
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 dried bay leaves
6 slices bacon, cut into smaller chunks
1 to 1.5 pounds Italian sausage (mild)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 cup olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1-2 medium carrots, peeled and chopped
2 14.5 ounce cans crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound ditalini or elbow pasta
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano or Parmesano cheese

Soak the beans in cold water over night. Drain and dump the beans into a large pot with five quarts of water (at least an 8 quart pot). Add the potatoes, rosemary and bay leaves. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to a gentle boil. Let cook while preparing the vegetables.

Using a food processor with the standard chopping blade, process the bacon and garlic to a paste. Add the Italian sausage and pulse until well combined. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the bacon/sausage mixture and cook, stirring regularly to break into small pieces until lightly browned. Stir in the onions and cook 4-5 minutes. Add the carrots and cook another 5 minutes Stir in the crushed tomatoes, bring to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer the tomato sausage mixture into the soup pot and bring back to a full boil. Season lightly with salt and pepper and reduce to a simmer and cook until the beans and potatoes are tender, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Using a slotted spoon, remove about one third of the beans to a bowl. (If some meat or other ingredients are included that is okay, but try to avoid the herbs.) Add just enough cooking liquid to cover them. Remove the whole potatoes to the bowl and break them into pieces. Transfer to the large bowl of a food processor or blender. Cover and process until fully creamed.

Add the creamed ingredients to the soup pot and cook another 10 minutes to blend the flavors. Increase heat to bring the pot to a full boil and add the dry pasta. Cook until the pasta is tender, about 10 minutes more.

 Let the soup rest off the heat, covered, 10 to 15 minutes. Serve with grated cheese.

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