Sunday, January 2, 2011

Sunday Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli

It's been kind of a crazy week here, so I'm not really up for some big project of a dish. Also, I'm kind of over super rich, complicated dishes from the holiday. I need a break! Something simple. Easy. Hearty without being overly rich. Beyond which, after weeks of making complicated family legacy recipes from my great-grandmother and grandmother, I'm happy to get this pasta e fagioli started and just walk away.

You will need:
about 2 ounces of guanciale (italian pork cheek) - cut into very small pieces [if you don't have or can't get guanciale, use bacon or pancetta]
1 bag of dried navy beans (more on the dried beans later)
3 carrots - peeled and coarsely diced
1 large yellow onion - finely diced
3 cloves garlic - finely diced
1 bundle of fresh, flat-leaf parsley - coarsely chopped
1 small can of tomato paste
1 small can of crushed or diced tomatoes
1 cup of wine (I like white for this, but either white or red will do)
4 cups chicken stock
bay leaf
pinch crushed red pepper
pasta - something small - I like ditalini for this soup
[Note, you can make this vegetarian very easily by simply omitting the guanciale and really browning the veg; then using veg. stock instead of chicken]

The Prep:
Boil the dried beans for about an hour in salted water. This kind of par-boils them. Drain, rinse and set aside. (Dried beans can be tricky ...)

Heat some olive oil in a soup pot or large roasting pot. Add the guanciale (or bacon or pancetta) and really brown until it's just starting to smoke. Add the diced carrots, chopped garlic and diced onion. Brown the veg for about five minutes, then add the wine to deglaze the pan. Reduce the wine by half, then add the tomato paste and cook for a few minutes.

Add the par-boiled beans, 4 cups of chicken stock, can of crushed tomatoes, chopped parsley, pinch of crushed red pepper, bay leaf, and about 6 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cover. Check it about every 20 minutes, but you'll need to let this boil for 2 to 3 hours to cook the beans. If it's reducing too much, add some more water. (Or stock. Or wine. Whichever you prefer.)

When the beans are just soft, in a separate pot, cook the ditalini until they are al dente. Add the pasta to the bean soup and serve with grated pecorino romano.

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