The other day, I had the chance to sit in one of my favorite lunch places and reminisce about a bowl of Pasta e Fagioli. Sipping on a hot, fresh cup of coffee, the question that was pressing for me was; “What’s the soup of the Day?” When the returned answer was Pasta e Fagioli, my menu choice was made. I smiled, asked for crusty bread to accompany the soup and settled in to recall my first trip down Zuppa lane.
A few years into my experience of teaching cooking classes, I looked at every opportunity to partner with other small businesses to bring a new concept to our collective publics. Working at the Farmers’ Market in St. Matthews, my next booth neighbor was Justin Gilbert of the locally famous Gelato Gilberto. We talked about his experiences in Italy and before you know it, we’d agreed to partner in offering a few Italian Cooking Classes in his home.
Justin’s home just wasn’t any home, but a three story, cozy condo in Norton Commons. Above his Gelato Gilberto business, his family enjoyed their perch above the little village in Prospect. We tried a few classes in his shop and a few in his and his family’s cucina at the top of the stairs.
It was up those winding stairs that the magic of food and friendship took place. We began the evening with some antipasti, the details, I don’t remember. What sticks in my mind and what I thought quietly about that day last week in Blue Dog Bakery and Cafe was the Panzanella Salad, the Pasta d Fagioli and the Gelato.
Patricia Wells, one of my favorite cookbook authors says: ‘there are about as many versions of pasta and bean soup as there are cooks…varies from a broth-like bean soup to a creamy bean puree…’ The one I had at Blue Dog, and the one that I make (although different) are of the brothy variety. Tonight, we are sharing my version, along with a homemade loaf of bread and, I am sure a few glasses of vino.
Pasta e Fagioli
- 2-3 oz. of finely diced Pancetta
- 1 large onion, finely diced
- 2-3 ribs celery, diced
- 1/2 cup or more diced carrot
- 2 Tbls olive oil
- salt and pepper
- pinch crushed red pepper
- 1 bay leaf
- 6 cups vegetable or chicken stock
- 1 cup, or more diced tomatoes
- 1 cup uncooked pasta, or two cups cooked pasta
- 3 cups cannelini beans, undrained – if canned*
Begin by preparing the diced vegetables. Drizzle the olive oil into a stock pot. Add the onion and Pancetta and begin to saute. Once the onion has softened, add the celery and carrot and cook until the onion is translucent and the celery and carrot have begun to soften up a bit. Season with salt and pepper and add the pinch of crushed red pepper and bay leaf. Add the stock and tomatoes. Bring to a simmer. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. add the cooked beans.
Heat the soup until completely hot and the pasta the perfect consistency.
For, me, I love a sprinkling of fresh Parmigiano cheese, fresh grated black pepper and some basil chiffonade.
*It’s easy to cook beans from their dried state, but they do take a bit of a watchful eye and time. See my blog post about cooking beans, January 12, 2009.