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      Comfort Food at its Best

       
      By
      Jan. 29, 2014

      Pasta e fagioliThe paternity of the pasta e fagioli dish is disputed among several Italian regions. Pasta e fagioli is indeed popular throughout Italy and is a favourite during the winter months. Veneto, where it is called pasta e fasioi or fasoi, and Tuscany have made it one of their traditional dishes. Quite interestingly, in Veneto, the introduction of beans coming from America, slowly substituting the sub-Saharan variety, was initially met with a certain resistance because beans were considered difficult to digest! It was finally cultivated because farmers could grow beans alongside with other crops, thus maximizing the use of farming land.

      Pasta e fagioli is a meal in itself, quite filling and energetic. In Rome, where it is believed this recipe was born, it was served in locande, inns, to travelers and customers that needed immediate energy and did not have perhaps money for another meal for days to come. It quickly became the dish of the peasants and was associated with the countryside where the beans were easily available.

      The recipe variants of pasta e fagioli are many, raging from the beans to the pasta used: the most known bean variety is Borlotti (in North America they are mostly known as Romano beans), but there are some recipes that call for Cannellini beans and others that prefer a mixed of several different types of beans. As for the pasta, some recipes call for short, full-bodied pasta, like for example, ditaloni. Others use broken up spaghetti or tagliettelle. The latter help absorbing the liquid leaving you with a quite dry dish.

      The main ingredient for this recipe is the beans, of course. The recipe below uses canned Borlotti beans, ready to be used. You can also choose dry beans. Remember to soak them in cold water overnight, changing the water at least once and rinsing them well before using them. You can cook them separately and then add them to the recipe following the instructions below.

      This is truly a wonderful recipe, hearty and full of flavours. It is also great the following day. In fact if you leave it in the fridge overnight, the ingredients will have the chance to come together even better.

      Pasta e fagioli

      INGREDIENTS
      1 onion
      1 celery leg
      2 garlic cloves
      1 carrot
      70 g lard (optional)
      100 g canned tomatoes
      400 g Borlotti beans
      ½ litre vegetable or chicken broth
      100 g pancetta
      320 g pasta
      Olive oil
      Pepper
      Parmesan cheese
      One or two slices of toasted or stale bread per bowl

      Prepare the vegetable or chicken broth. You can use a cube if you don’t have time to make it from scratch. Set aside.

      If you choose to use the lard, chop it up and add it to a pan. Let it melt and then add the finely chopped onion, garlic cloves, celery and carrot. Add some olive oil. (If you choose not to use the lard, start by heating up some olive oil in a pan and by adding the chopped vegetables). Let soften and add the canned tomatoes. When the tomatoes have broken up, add a couple of ladles of broth and let evaporate.

      In the meantime, in another pan, add the pancetta previously diced or cut into thin stripes, whatever you prefer. Let the pancetta cook for a few minutes in its own fat (take some bits out and put aside) and then add the beans. Mix well, add a ladle or two of broth and let evaporate. Add the beans and pancetta to the soffritto (the now soften chopped up vegetables plus tomatoes) and cook for a few minutes so that the flavours mix well.

      In a pot bring to a boil plenty of water. Add salt and the chosen shape of pasta. Half way through its cooking time, drain the pasta and add to the beans. Mix and add some cooking water or some broth in order to finish cooking the pasta.

      This dish can be as watery or as creamy as you like. It really depends on your personal taste. If you like it more creamy, you can use a mixer and process this way some beans, that you have kept aside, and adding them to the dish.

      Once the pasta is cooked, turn the heat off and let sit for a minute or two. In the meantime, place some toasted or stale bread in the bottom of a bowl. Pour the pasta e fagioli into the bowl, drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil (olio a crudo), grate some Parmesan cheese and top with some of the crispy bits of pancetta that you have kept aside.

      Buon appetito!

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