Dish of the Week: Pasta e Fagioli

Cold? This comforting pasta e fagioli will warm you right up.
Cold? This comforting pasta e fagioli will warm you right up.

From classic comfort foods to regional standouts and desserts, we'll be sharing a new recipe with you each week. Find other dishes of the week here.

This week, we're keeping things warm and cozy with the classic Pasta e Fagioli.

Literally meaning "pasta and beans", pasta e fagioli is a traditional Italian soup made with cannellini, kidney, or borlotti beans and some type of small pasta, usually elbow macaroni or ditalini. Because of its inexpensive ingredients, the soup had its origins in the Italian countryside, where it was a popular peasant dish.

There are several regional variations on the dish, including the addition of smoked pork bone in the region of Veneto or a thicker version of the soup made with pancetta and mixed pasta shapes in Bari. Although there are several components you can add, the base of the soup is most always made using olive oil, garlic, onion, spices, and (sometimes) stewed tomato or tomato paste. Whatever way you make it, the comforting hearty soup makes for the perfect cold weather meal.

This recipe, slightly adapted from chef Andrew Carmellini, uses a small hunk of prosciutto to impart a salty pork flavor into the broth. The chef finishes the soup with fresh crumbled goat cheese, but feel free to use freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano for a more classic version of the dish.

Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients serves 6 6 cups chicken stock or low-sodium broth 1 4-ounce slice of prosciutto 1/2 cup small dried pasta (ditalini or elbow) 1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil 1 medium onion, thinly sliced 1 carrot, thinly sliced 1 celery rib, thinly sliced 2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 1 rosemary sprig 1/2 tsp crushed red pepper 1 tbsp tomato paste 2 19-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste Optional: 1/4 pound fresh goat cheese, crumbled or desired amount of freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

Directions

In a large saucepan, bring the stock to a boil with the prosciutto. Add the pasta, cover partially and cook until al dente according to package instructions. Strain the broth into a heatproof bowl. Pick out the prosciutto and dice it. Reserve the pasta separately.

Wipe out the saucepan and heat the olive oil in it. Add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, rosemary, crushed red pepper and diced prosciutto and cook over moderately high heat, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are lightly browned, about 6 minutes. Add the tomato paste and the strained broth, cover partially and simmer until the prosciutto and vegetables are tender, about 8 minutes. Discard the rosemary sprig.

Add half of the beans to the soup. Puree the soup in a blender and return to the saucepan. Add the remaining beans and the reserved pasta and cook until heated through. Season the soup with salt and pepper.

Finish with goat cheese or freshly grated parm and serve hot.


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