Pasta e Fagioli
Winter has yet to rear its ugly head in any meaningful way. The weather has stayed mild, the leaves have remained on the trees and the cooler Autumnal air has only recently made an appearance. I’ve held off on big hearty stews which usually arrive by mid September and have instead continued with mostly Summer fare, taking advantage of the in season Cavalo Nero and Kale in pasta dishes and salads. With the arrival of pumpkin and squash, it will be more difficult to maintain this but I don’t mind, I love Autumnal soups.
Pasta e Fagioli is a classic Italian dish which can be made any time of the year. Most regions have their own variation but general opinion agrees that Naples is home to the best version in the country. In Summer, the fresh borlotti bean is the favoured star but finding fresh borlotti beans in Ireland can prove quite difficult (or impossible!). I use dried cannellini beans instead – use a good quality bean from a shop which sells a decent amount of them, you don’t want them to have been sitting under fluorescent lights for months on end. Soak the beans overnight in lots of cold water before cooking in unsalted water for 2-3 hours until tender. You can skip all of this by using 2 x 400g tins of cannellini/borlotti beans but the flavour will suffer! This is a great recipe to use up odds and ends of pasta – just put it all into a bag and break it up into bite-size pieces.
This can also be a great vegetarian soup – omit the cured meat and use vegetarian stock. A sprinkling of finely chopped olives at the end will enhance the flavour greatly.
Adapted from An Invitation to Italian Cooking by Antonio Carluccio
250g Dried Cannellini Beans (soaked and cooked – see above)
4 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Celery Stalks
100g Prosciutto/Salami (or a mix of cured meat)
2 medium Potatoes (cut into cubes)
pinch of Dried Chilli
2 cloves of Garlic (finely sliced)
1 Tin of Chopped Tomatoes
1 litre of Chicken/Vegetable Stock
100g Pasta (broken up)
10 fresh Basil leaves (torn)
Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Pepper
In a large saucepan and over a medium heat, fry the celery and cured meat in the oil for 5 minutes before adding the potato and chilli. Season lightly, reduce the heat to low and cook for another 10 minutes, stirring regularly to avoid burning.
Add the garlic, stir well and cook for 1-2 minutes before adding the tin of tomatoes. Reduce over a low heat for ten minutes before adding two thirds of the beans (mash the remaining beans with a fork) and stock. Bring to the boil and add the pasta. Return to the boil and cook for 10 minutes.
Ensure the pasta and potatoes are cooked before adding the mashed beans (to thicken the soup) and basil leaves. Check for seasoning and serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a basil leaf for garnish.