Saturday, May 7, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli


May 4 - dinner out in LA
May 5 - Dinner at John's Restaurant in Boulder, CO to celebrate the little bro's college graduation
May 6 - Dinner at Denver airport as the fam gets ready to take the red eye to Costa Rica

Now you're likely wondering what I'm doing making a hearty soup like this at the beginning of May, well in fact I made it about a month ago to give to friends of ours who had just had twins.  I made enough to send to them and keep some for us in our freezer.  I did this because as you read this I'm in Costa Rica with my family while the Boy is still in TO working.  To help the girls with posting and to try to ensure the Boy ate something other than pizza and wings during the two weeks I'm gone I made a few meals that froze well so that he could just heat them up and go.


On to this hearty soup during this springy time.  While pasta e fagioli is very filling, hearty and warming, it's actually best served at room temperature making it ideal for warmer weather.  I cook the pasta separate from the soup when I'm ready to serve because with a soup this thick the pasta can easily take over.  Plus it freezes beautifully without the pasta.  I use bacon and a parmigiano rind in my soup but they can easily be omitted, the bacon subbed for olive oil for a great vegetarian or vegan soup.

I'm torn as to whether I want the boy to eat the two servings I froze for him, since I'll happily eat it when I get back to home. It may not look fancy but it's packed with flavor and probably would be well served garnished with some fresh basil, grated parmigiano and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Pasta e Fagioli
serves 6-8

3 cups dry white beans
1 good spring of fresh sage
1 large garlic clove crushed
8 strips bacon - diced or 2 Tbsps extra virgin olive oil
3 celery stalks - diced
2 carrots - peeled and diced
3 medium onions - diced
4 large garlic cloves - minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp fresh crack black pepper
1/4 cup white wine
1 500 ml can of whole plum tomatoes in juice - either fresh canned or San Marzano are best
1 sprig of fresh sage
4 sprigs thyme
1 bay leaf
1 parmigiano rind
chicken stock, vegetable stock or water
2-3 cups of dried tubetti, ditalini or small shells

1.  Place beans in a pot and cover by 2 inches with water.  Add the crushed garlic clove and sage sprig.  Cover and bring to a boil over high heat.  Once boiled remove from heat and let sit for an hour. Remove sage and garlic, drain and reserve.
2.  Heat a large dutch oven or heavy-bottomed soup pot over medium low heat.  Add in diced bacon and cook slowly to render out the fat until the bacon gets crispy.  Remove to a paper towel line plate and reserve.
3. Raise the heat to medium and add in the diced carrots,  and onions.  Saute until the vegetables soften and begin to caramelize, about 7-10 minutes.  Add in the garlic, salt and pepper, stir to combine and saute for another minute.
4.  Deglaze with the white wine, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits.  Add in the herbs, beans, parmigiano rind and tomatoes, crushing with your hands as you add them. Add in stock or water until everything is covered.
5.  Bring to a boil over medium high heat.   Stirring occasionally.  When at a full rolling boil, cover the pot and let boil for 45 minutes, giving it a stir and checking the beans for tenderness every 15 minutes or so.
6.  Once the beans are cooked, ladle about half of the soup into your blender or food processor and pulse it until all of the beans and veggies are broken down.  Add back to the soup along with the bacon and stir to combine.
7.  Cook 1/3 cup of pasta for each serving.  Stir the cooked pasta into each bowl as you serve.

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