Pasta and Bean Soup

Pasta e Fagioli

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There are many variations of pasta and bean soups that can be found in Italy but my favorite is the one made in the Emilia-romagna region. The best bean to use is the cranberry bean which is available fresh in the spring and summer and which freezes quite well in tightly sealed freezer bags. Dried cranberry beans also work quite well provided they are soaked in water overnight or you can use canned cranberry or even red kidney beans. The recipe that follows is the classic method of preparing this soup.

Total Time from Start to Finish: 1 hour and 15 minutes

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (plus more for drizzling at the end)
  • 2 tablespoons yellow onion, finely chopped
  • 3 tablespoons carrots, finely diced
  • 3 tablespoons celery, finely diced
  • 3 to 4 pork ribs or 2 small pork chops
  • ¾ cup canned whole peeled tomatoes with their juice, coarsely chopped
  • 3 cups fresh, frozen or canned beans or 2 cups dried beans (see note above)
  • Salt
  • 4 cups homemade meat broth or 1 beef bouillon cube dissolved in 4 cups water
  • 6 ounces homemade maltagliati or any of the small tubular pastas
  • ¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano, freshly grated
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Put the olive oil in a 4- to 5-quart soup pot and place over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, and celery and Sauté until they turns a rich golden color. Add the carrots and celery, and Sauté until they are lightly browned. Add the pork and cook for another 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and once they start bubbling, turn the heat down to low and simmer for 10 minutes or, if using canned beans, 25 minutes.
  2. Add the beans, season with salt, and stir well, and add the broth. Cover the pot and cook until the beans are tender, 45 minutes if using fresh or 30 minutes if using canned.
  3. Remove the pork, (the meat is actually very good and makes a great little snack for the cook at this point!) scoop up about ¼ of the beans, and puree them through a food mill back into the pot. Alternatively, you can purée them with a little of the broth in a food processor. The soup may be prepared ahead of time up to this point and refrigerated.
  4. Check the density of the soup. It should have enough liquid to be able to cook the pasta in it. If necessary, add a little more broth or water. Raise the heat to medium high and when the soup begins boiling add the pasta. Cook until the pasta is al dente. Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the grated Parmigiano.
  5. I find this soup is better if not eaten piping hot and is allowed to rest for about 5 minutes. When ready to serve, ladle it into soup bowls and season each serving with some black pepper and a small drizzle of fresh olive oil.

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