Tag Archives: pasta

Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}

Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}Although I have never publicized it this way, I have privately referred to this time of my blogging year as “Savory January” for some time now. You see, every January since starting this site, I (mostly) switch focus from sweets to weeknight meals, sides and other savory pursuits. It’s not for weight loss, “cleansing” or any reason beyond keeping things interesting—I cook as much as I bake, and those recipes deserve their moment in the blogging sun, too. Is switching up my blog POV for one month a year weird? Sure. But I like variety, and also this is my website and I can do what I want.Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}Pasta e Fagioli has been one of my favorite recipes for years and years. At its most basic, it’s a vegetable soup with pasta and beans, but it’s so much more! It’s easy, it’s cheap, it’s hearty, and it’s dang delicious. Oh, and it’s vegetarian—vegan without the cheese, gluten-free depending what kind of pasta you use. Yesssss.Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}I made this Italian staple all the time when I first moved to NYC, but moved on to other things because that’s just how cooking goes for me. I make something regularly for a few weeks/months/years and then I completely forget about it for a few more weeks/months/years. In this case, I remembered Pasta e Fagioli on the last night of our Maine trip this past October. We had some produce to use up, and we had some tomato paste, beans (aka fagioli), pasta and cheese ends lingering…and well, when life gives you lemons, you know.

Long story short, I used up ingredients, was able to feed my people in under an hour start-to-finish and also became obsessed with Pasta e Fagioli again. We’ve been back in Brooklyn for three months and I’m still over here making this every couple of weeks. The heart wants what it wants.Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}Making Pasta e Fagioli is super simple and you probably have most of the ingredients already. The method is nearly identical fo the way I make Sausage, White Bean & Kale Soup because why fix what isn’t broken?

Start by cooking the mirepoix (French term for carrot, celery & onion) for about ten minutes. You’re not going to get any color on it, but this is where the flavor building begins. Add some garlic, and then coat it all in tomato paste and let it caramelize for a few minutes. Add some herbs (fresh or dried), vegetable stock and water, and let that all simmer for 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are soft. Finish it all off with a couple of cans of white beans and a bunch of kale (or any hearty green) and let them warm through, then combine the soup with cooked pasta in individual soup bowls. All that’s left to do is grate some parm over the top and call it dinner.Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}If you’re wondering why I cook the pasta separately from the rest of the soup, it’s because I’m a single lady who eats a lot of leftovers and hates mushy pasta. I do this with chicken noodle soup as well—by keeping the two components separate, the pasta doesn’t overcook or get waterlogged and sad. If you have a group to feed or will otherwise not have leftovers (or maybe like your pasta really soft?), feel free to toss it in the pot with the beans and kale.

Pasta e Fagioli takes less than an hour start-to-finish and keeps like a dream. I made a big pot on Sunday night and have been reheating it for quick dinners when I get home from work. Let me tell you, it’s taking the edge off the post-holiday blues.Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}

Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}
makes 4-6 servings

For pasta:
Kosher or sea salt
splash of olive oil
1 1/2 cups small pasta (farfalline, ditalini, elbows)

2 tablespoons olive oil
3 medium carrots, peeled, sliced into thin half-moons
3 ribs celery, trimmed, thinly sliced
1 medium-large yellow onion, diced small
1/2-1 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt, divided
6-8 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes (optional)
4 cups vegetable stock
4 cups water
2 bay leaves
1 bunch kale or chard, stemmed and chopped into bite-sized pieces
2 15-ounce cans cannelini or other white beans
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley, plus more for topping
grated parmesan cheese, for topping (optional)

Fill a medium-sized heavy-bottomed pot 2/3 full with water. Bring to a boil. Salt well and add pasta, cooking according to the package directions. Drain pasta and return to the pot. Drizzle lightly with olive oil to keep it from sticking together whil you prepare the soup.

Heat olive oil in a stockpot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, onion and a pinch of salt to the pot. Cook, stirring frequently, until starting to soften (about 10 minutes). Stir in garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add tomato paste and stir to coat. Let cook for 2-3 minutes, until tomato paste begins to darken. Add bay leaves, thyme, optional red pepper flakes, vegetable stock and water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and let cook 20-25 minutes, or until vegetables are soft (but not mush).

Remove bay leaves. Add beans and kale and let cook 5-7 more minutes, until greens have wilted a bit. Stir in parsley. Taste for salt and adjust as needed.

For serving, place about 1/2 cup of cooked pasta in each bowl. Top with soup and stir together. Garnish with Parmesan, if desired.

Soup will keep in an airtight container in the refrigerator for several days.

Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}Pasta e Fagioli {Italian Pasta & Bean Soup}

Basil Pesto

When I was growing up, my parents insisted on family dinners nearly every night of the week, no matter how late E3 and I got finished with our extracurricular activities. As we got older, dance and piano practices went later and later, meaning dinner was often pushed to after 9pm, but as soon as everyone was home, we’d all sit down and catch up over a home-cooked meal. Those thirty minutes of family time every night are some of my favorite memories of my childhood, and not just because of all the joking that went on around our round kitchen table. My mom made dinner most nights. She is a good cook, although she doesn’t enjoy it the way I do. With rare exception, everything she put on the table was fantastic. Chicken divan, smothered pork chops, and corned beef were guaranteed hits with everyone, but my favorite was one of the few vegetarian meals she made: pasta with pesto, tomatoes and Parmesan. I just loved the combination of pasta, basil pesto, sweet tomatoes, and cheese. It wasn’t anything revolutionary, but it was delicious, and my mom made it often because she knew how I loved it.As I said, my mom is a good cook. But she isn’t always a scratch cook. She makes most things fresh, but when it comes to sauces, she usually goes for a jar. That pesto I loved so much is mass-produced. I continued to buy it into adulthood, not even imagining that I could make my own until I was well into my twenties. When I bought myself a food processor six years ago, pesto was one of the first things I made. I quickly ditched the storebought variety, and have been hooked on the homemade stuff ever since.Homemade Basil Pesto is delightfully quick and easy, and has a much brighter and more intense basil flavor than anything you’ll find in the grocery store. Start by putting two cups of fresh basil leaves, 1/3 cup each of pine nuts and Parmesan cheese, and two cloves of minced garlic into a food processor. You could certainly use whole garlic cloves, but I find that mincing them ahead of time guarantees that the final product won’t have any large pieces it it. I love pesto, but I don’t love biting into big chunks of raw garlic!While processing the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan, and garlic, stream in a combination of olive oil and lemon juice. The olive oil is what makes the pesto saucy and rich, and the lemon adds just a touch of brightness and acidity. As the liquid ingredients whirl with the basil, pine nuts, cheese, and garlic, a thick, bright green sauce will form. All that’s left to do is blitz in some salt and pepper!

Basil Pesto is great just about anywhere you can think to use it. Try it as a sauce for pizza, serve it over grilled chicken, spread it onto a halved loaf of bread and crisp it in the oven. Seriously, this stuff is good on everything. My favorite way to eat pesto is the same as it’s always been: tossed with pasta, topped with tomatoes, and sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Basil Pesto
makes about 1 cup

1/2 cup olive oil
juice of 1/2-1 medium lemon (to taste)
2 cups basil leaves, packed
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/3 cup pine nuts (or toasted walnuts or sunflower seeds)
1/3 cup freshly-grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

For Pesto Pasta:
1 lb small pasta, cooked to al dente, drained
1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid
1 pint grape tomatoes, sliced in half
freshly-grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

In a measuring cup, combine olive oil and juice of 1/2 lemon.

Combine basil, garlic, pine nuts, and Parmesan cheese in the bowl of a food processor or high-powered blender. While processing, stream olive oil-lemon mixture through the food processor’s feed tube. Process until a thick, bright green sauce forms. Add salt and pepper and process until well-distributed. Add more lemon juice, if desired. Store pesto in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to a week.

To make pesto pasta, combine pasta and pesto in a large pot and fold them together with a large spoon. Add 2 tablespoons of the pasta cooking liquid and fold again. Add more cooking liquid by the tablespoon, until the desired consistency has been reached. Serve pasta in bowls. Top with halved grape tomatoes and additional Parmesan cheese, if desired.