Pasta e Fagioli

Feb 26th

“Fazool” is how you pronounce it, in case you’ve been holding back ordering it due to possible waiter embarrassment. This soup is a make again (and again and again) for my little family as well as my parents and in-laws. Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen, its flavor is unparalleled. 

If you’ve read this blog a few times I hope you’ve noticed that I don’t like arbitrary ingredients. Life is too short to go to Asian specialty stores for things like lemongrass. Now, that being said, this recipe does have two ingredients that might make you doubt my philosophy. First – anchovies. They sell them next to the tuna, people! Use what this recipe calls for, dump the rest in a plastic bag and toss the bag into the freezer. A hundred years from now or next month when you make something that calls for anchovies you will go, “OMG, I actually have some anchovies in the freezer!”.

Perhaps you won’t buy anchovies because you still think they’re “gross”. If this is the case take my pasta e fagioli challenge; you’ll take the first bite and wonder aloud at the rich complexity of this ridiculously amazing soup and there will be this little Becca whisper in your head saying, “IT’S THE ANCHOVIES”. Depth of flavor – umami (no I did not say “unagi”, though that episode of Friends is one of my faves).

Next, cheese rind? Buy Belgioioso brand that comes in a triangular block. It’s not expensive and has a great flavor; you can grate it as you need it using a rasp grater. When you get to the rind, put it in a plastic bag in your freezer. When you make soup, put it in the broth. It makes a big flavor difference.

Though bacon isn’t arbitrary (Food Network Mag has a whole issue out dedicated to Bacon), my last freezer tip is a gem; use what you need for this recipe and then divide the remaining slices up into groups of three. Place them into plastic bags and put in your freezer. A lot of recipes will ask you to start by sauteing bacon but rarely will you need more than three slices. Thawing and re-freezing is super annoying (and can grow bacteria), which is why you will be SO glad you pre-divided the slices. Happy soup-making!

Pasta e Fagioli (“Pasta Fazool”)

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen

8-10 servings

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil

3 slices bacon, chopped fine

1 onion, chopped fine

1 celery stalk, chopped fine

4 medium garlic cloves, minced (or pressed through a garlic press)

1 tsp. dried oregano

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes (or more to taste)

3 anchovy fillets, mashed to a paste

1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes (with juice)

1 piece parmesan cheese rind

2 (15.5) oz cans cannelini or red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

4 c. chicken broth

2 c. water

1 tsp. salt

8 oz. small pasta shape (orzo, shells, tubetini or ditalini)

1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley leaves

Fresh parmesan to top each bowl

1. Heat oil over medium high heat in a large pot or dutch oven for about 2 minutes.

2. Add chopped bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until it starts to brown.

3. Add onion and celery; cook, stirring occasionally until veggies are softened — about 5 minutes. 

 

4. Add garlic, oregano, red pepper and anchovies. Stir constantly for about 1 minute.

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5. Add tomatoes (and their liquid) and cheese rind and stir, scraping the bottom of the pan.

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6. Add beans. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to low and simmer to blend the flavors— about 10 minutes.

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7. Add chicken broth, water, and 1 tsp. salt. Increase heat to high and bring to a boil.

8. Remove cheese rind and add pasta.  Cook until tender, about 10 minutes. 

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9. Turn heat to low and stir in the parsley. Serve, with sprinkled cheese on top.

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Any soup with pasta is best served as soon as it’s finished. If you’re making ahead be prepared to add more chicken broth before serving as the noodles suck up the liquid. 

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