Almost everyone familiar with Italian food knows about PASTA FAZOOL aka PASTA FAGIOLI (Pasta and Beans). Certainly no Italian household in Binghamton, NY, where I grew up, was without a family recipe. It was a favorite in our house especially on Friday nights or meatless Holy Days. My Dad, Attilio, loved it. Very often, my mother and father also referred to the dish as Pasta and Beans. Generally, at our house, we almost always ate it without meat. However, it was not uncommon to find it with shrimp or sausage in it, or even cabbage or kale. It was one of those great dishes that was re-created on a regular basis.
The backstage skinny: This recipe for PASTA FAZOOL is made with some chopped pancetta. There is something about a little added pork that takes a dish from the ordinary to the divine. You can just as easily leave it out and make it a meatless dish.
I also use fennel in my version – why? I just love fennel, and every time I add it to a soup or stew, it just seems to get better. This is one of those times. If you don’t like fennel – omit it. To get step by step instructions on how to prep and chop fennel, visit my post: Makes Me Want to Cluck.
I used shell pasta in this recipe. I like shells in PASTA FAZOOL because they tend to scoop up the delicious liquid, and a bean or two always gets caught in them. You can use other types of pasta. Some other common choices are bowties (farfalle) or corkscrews (rotini). I also cook the pasta right in the soup instead of separately. This is the reason: the pasta releases starch while cooking which helps to thicken the soup a little.
Enjoy this family favorite!
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Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 40 minutes
4 Tbsp. olive oil
1 chopped onion
2 carrots – chopped
2 stalks celery – chopped
3 cloves garlic – chopped finely
1 fennel bulb – sliced thinly (optional)
1/4 lb. pancetta chopped (optional)
1 28 oz. Can San Marzano whole peeled tomatoes (cut coarsely with knife and fork – also add the liquid from the can)
4 c. chicken or vegetable broth
2 Bay Leaves
1/4 c. chopped Fresh Flat Leaf Parsley
1/4 c. chopped Fresh Basil
1 Tbsp. chopped Fresh Oregano (if using dried – use less)
1 Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese Rind
1/4 Tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
1 14 oz. can Chickpeas (Garbanzo Beans) – do not drain
1 14 oz. can Cannellini Beans – do not drain
1/2 lb. uncooked shell pasta (or farfalle, rotini or other)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Plenty of grated Parmigiano-Reggiano Cheese for serving
Put olive oil in pan. Add onion, carrots, celery, fennel, garlic, pancetta. Cook at medium high until tender about 10 minutes.
Add tomatoes, broth, herbs, bay leaves, rind, red pepper flakes.
Add canned beans undrained with liquid from cans.
Add uncooked pasta. This will thicken the broth.
Bring to a boil – then reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt & pepper.
Remove and discard the bay leaves when the soup is done! Remove and discard the rind if there is any not melted.
Serve with the grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.
Note: Pasta is a notorious sponge! It absorbs the liquid it swims in. If the PASTA FAZOOL gets dry or absorbs the liquid when leftover, just add water and adjust seasoning if needed.
Crusty Bread?? Uh-huh!!
PARLA COME MANGI!
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Food Photos By Tommy Hanks Photography