Thursday, December 2, 2010

Perfect Winter Soup

Italian Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta E Fagioli)
(Courtesy of America’s Test Kitchen)

This soup does not hold well because the pasta absorbs the liquid, beomes mushy and leaves the soup dry. You can, however make it in two stages. Once the beand are simmered with the tomatoes, before the broth and water are added, the mixture can be cooled and refrigerated for three days. When ready to complete the soup, discard the parmesan rind (otherwise it will become stringy), add the liquid, bring the soup to a boil and proceed with the recipe. Or, you can just add more liquid, and less pasta so that when you re-heat, there is less pasta to absorb the liquid, and since the pasta expands, you will have more than enough in there. I use cavatelli pasta. It’s smaller, and absorbs less water, and tastes better with the soup. Rao’s makes the best pasta, it’s more expensive, but worth every penny. I also add more celery and onions to this as desired b/c I happen to enjoy extra veggies. Also, Muier Glenn tomatoes are preferred b/c they are stored in an enameled can, increasing flavor, and decreasing chance of aluminum exposure.


1 T extra virgin olive oil
3 ounces of diced pancetta or bacon
1 medium onion, diced
2 celery ribs, diced
4 medium garlic cloves, minced or passed through garlic press, about 1 heaping T
1 t dried oregano
½ t dried red pepper flakes, or more depending on your taste
3 anchovy fillets, minced to a paste (I never have used this and it turns out fine)
1 (28 oz can) of diced tomaotoes
1 piece of parmesan cheese rind, about 5 inches by 2 inches
2 (15.5 oz) cans of cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
3 ½ cups of low sodium chicken broth
2 ½ cups water
8 oz small pasta shape ( cavatelli, ditalini, tubetini, orzo, etc.)
¼ c chopped fresh parsley leaves for serving
Ground black pepper for serving
Grated parmesan cheese for serving


-Heat oil in a large havy-bottomed stock pot or Dutch oven over medium high heat until shimmering.

-Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until it begins to brown, 3-5 minutes.

-Add onion and celery and cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are softened, about 5-7 minutes.

-Add the garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and anchovies and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute.

-Add tomatoes, with their liquid, scraping up any browned bits from the pan bottom. -Add the cheese rind and beans; bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer to blend the flavors, 10 minutes.

-Add chicken broth and water and 1 t salt; increase heat to high and bring to a boil. Add pasta and cook until tender, about 10 minutes (or according to pasta cooking time).

-Discard cheese rind. Off the heat, stir in 3 T of the parsley; adjust the seasonings with salt and pepper to taste. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.

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