Wednesday, September 5, 2007

Authentic Pasta e Fagioli (NOT Pasta Fazool!)

My mother always made this for us as kids (along with Pasta e Lentichie--lentils) and I crave it all throughout the winter months. My seventh child, born in the dead of winter, was grown in utero almost entirely on Pasta e Fagioli and milk--he weighed 11.5 lbs at birth! My mother learned to make this from her mother who is from Naples. I learned to make it from my mother with no measurements, but I've tried to approximate the measurements for you--give or take a little. We like to serve it sprinkled with fresh diced onions, and, of course, thick slices of buttered Pane Rustica!

Authentic Pasta e Fagioli (pronounced fah-jo-lie, like Angelina)

1 lb. dry cannellini, navy or great northern beans (I usually use navy beans)
2 stalks celery (optional)
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
2-3 tomatoes, diced for 1-1/2 cups
2-3 cloves garlic (usually I just use the whole stinking blub!)
2-3 quarts water
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil

You can soak the beans in water and 1 tablespoon baking soda for 8-10 hours, drain and proceed with the recipe, of you can throw it all in a pressure cooker like I do. If you soak them, then drain them, place them in a large stock pot and add the remaining ingredients except for the salt and pasta.
Boil for 1-2 hours with lid on, checking to make sure the beans don't lose their boil, and stirring frequently.

If you pressure cook them, then just place the rinsed and picked over beans in the pressure cooker with all the other ingredients except the salt and pasta, and bring to full pressure. Lower the heat to medium low and cook for about an hour, adding salt after the beans are tender, but not mush.

Now for the pasta--you can either cook it separately, ladeling the beans over them in each individual bowl, or just throw the pasta into the boiling beans before serving. It's better when you cook it separately, but if you don't want to take up another burner on the stove, then just throw them in with the beans and cook until al dente, about 8-10 minutes, depending on the quality of the pasta. I like to use the small to medium shells because the bens get cupped inside. I hope you enjoy this old family recipe as much as we do!

Buon Apetito!

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