Soup is a wonderful thing…it can be thin and brothy, thick and creamy, or more like a stew with tons of ingredients. Personally, I like all of soup’s wonderful variations, as long as it’s tasty and flavorful. I’ll never forget the first time I had pasta e fagioli soup. I was in Venice, probably about 20 years ago, sitting at an outdoor table, overlooking the Grand Canal, at the Hotel Monaco for lunch. I’d heard and read about pasta e fagioli soup, and the waiter assured me it was done very well at this restaurant. Sure enough, I fell in love with the first bite.
Pasta e fagioli has been around for a very long time, and originated as a peasant dish due to its inexpensive ingredients. Over time, there have been many variations, and many people today make it with an animal-based stock and/or with some form of meat-based fat such as pancetta. I do both, of course!
Here’s the recipe…serve it with the grated parmesan cheese on top and some good crusty bread on the side for mopping up the great broth.
2 Tbsp olive oil
4 oz of pancetta, cut into small dice
1 yellow onion, cut into small dice
1 carrot, peeled and cut into small dice
1 rib of celery, cut into small dice
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
4 sprigs of fresh thyme
1 Tbsp Italian seasoning
2 bay leaves
salt & pepper
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 15-oz can of tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes
1 cups water
4 cups chicken stock
2 Tbsp soy sauce
1/2 cup dry red wine
1 1/2 cups small soup pasta such as ditalini or small elbow macaroni
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
Heat the oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the pancetta, and brown slightly. Add the onion, carrot, celery, and garlic and cook until the onion is translucent (approximately 5 minutes). Season the mixture with salt & pepper generously, and add the herbs. Add the beans, tomato sauce, water, stock, soy sauce and red wine and stir to mix well. Raise heat to high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover, and simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the pasta and cook an additional 30 minutes, stirring often. Reduce heat and partially cover if too much liquid is evaporating. Taste and adjust salt & pepper as needed.
The resulting soup should be thick, without a lot of liquid. Serve in bowls with grated parmesan, with crusty bread on the side.