Pasta e Fagioli

Serves 4

A hearty dish from the Apulia region in southern Italy, Pasta e Fagioli is a great way to combine beans with pasta, for a hearty, filling, and well rounded meal. While pre-soaking beans in generally a gentler for the digestion, using canned beans is a great (and very acceptable) short cut. As a general rule, beans should not be boiled rapidly, or their skins break and they fall apart. Because they take time to cook, plan to make a big batch of this soup – it makes great leftovers – and give the pot time to gently simmer. This recipe works really well in a slow-cooker.

1 cup of dry borlotti beans (substitute with cannellini, great northern or pinto beans)
3 teaspoons of olive oil
½ onion
1 celery stalk
1 carrot
1 clove of garlic
2 cups fresh diced tomatoes or one 14.5-ounce can of diced tomatoes
2 ounces of pancetta (or 2-3 slices of prosciutto or ham)
5 cups of beef, vegetable or chicken stock or water with a “stock cube”
1 bay leaf
5 ounces of small pasta, ideally with holes such as elbows
2 oz fresh Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper

Soak beans overnight in plenty of fresh water.
Sauté diced onions in olive oil.
Add diced celery, carrot, garlic and pancetta stirring constantly.
Add beans, tomatoes, stock and bay leaf and let cook gently over low heat for at least two hours (and up to four).
Optional: To make a thicker soup, remove and set aside half of the cooked beans in a bowl, and puree the remainder with a hand-mixer or in batches in the blender.
Boil pasta in water in a separate pot.
Mix pureed soup, beans and pasta and adjust seasoning with salt and pepper.
Serve with Parmesan cheese, olive oil and fresh basil.

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