Almost every southern Italian family has a version of pasta and beans, called pasta e fasola, pasta fazool, or pasta e fagioli. In my version I use the speckled red borlotti, or cranberry bean, although this is a matter of preference since kidney or cannellini beans can also be used.
Italians make this hearty soup with fresh beans when in season. In the winter, dried beans are first soaked and then cooked. The pasta used is a small tubular macaroni called ditalini. Substituting elbow macaroni is acceptable.
1 1/2 cups dried borlotti (cranberry) beans
8 cups cold water
2 cups (8 ounces) Ditalini
2 medium carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
1 rib celery, cut into quarters
2 medium onions, peeled and cut into quarters
1 large clove garlic, peeled
2 ounces pancetta or bacon
Leaves from 2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1/2 cup Filippo Berio olive oil
3 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, and diced
Salt and pepper to taste
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano cheese
Place the beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water, and let sit overnight.
The next day, drain the beans, place them in a large soup pot, and cover with cold water. Bring the beans to a boil and cook for 20 to 25 minutes, or until they are still al dente. Add the pasta and boil the mixture for about 15 minutes more, or until the pasta is al dente.
While the beans are cooking, make a battuto, or minced mixture of the carrots, celery, onions, garlic, pancetta, and rosemary. In a skillet, heat, 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, add the minced mixture, and sauté for about 5 minutes, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the tomatoes, cover the skillet, and simmer for about 12 minutes.
When the pasta is cooked, add the vegetable mixture, stirring well. Add salt and pepper and serve the soup immediately in individual soup bowls. Drizzle a little of the remaining olive oil over the soup and pass the cheese to sprinkle over the top.
Note: Crusty Italian bread and a simple green salad of romaine and radicchio round out this meal.
This recipe is from NELLA CUCINA by Mary Ann Esposito, published by William Morrow and Company, Inc., in 1993.
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