16-Bean Pasta Fagioli

img_0696RECIPE #441, DAY #611

FOUR STARS

ORIGINAL RECIPE: “’16 Bean’ Pasta e Fagioli” from Ina Garten in Food Network Magazine, March 2017*

TIMING: 1 day to soak, then about 1 1/2 hours, but most of it inactive

DIFFICULTY: Pretty easy

TOOLS: A soup pot or Dutch oven and not much else

COOK TYPE: Stovetop

HEALTH: This really is a bowl of health. Yes, you start with a little cured meat, but you end up with a bowl teeming with beans and vegetables with just a small amount of pasta. Great for the wintertime, and also for when you are under the weather.img_0697

EXPERIENCE: I am not a pasta fagioli fan. There were 3 reasons this recipe appealed to me: it was affordable, it was written by Ina Garten, and the photo made it look tasty. So I plunged in. It turned out to be popular in our home, as well as easy, cheap, and tasty. I would definitely do this again, even if Italian bean soup is still not my favorite.

NOTES: To make this (possibly inauthentic) version, you have to find a bag of dry beans labeled “16 bean” soup mix. Goya makes a mix, but I found this even easier than that, in a house brand at the first grocery store I went to. Look in the dried beans and lentil section, as well as the ethnic section. (Goya is often in the Mexican section.)

This is one of the very few times you will catch me leaving browned, cured meat in a soup, instead of using it as a garnish. The texture disappears here, just leaving the stewed meat taste. Of course, who would argue with some crispy pancetta to garnish the soup? And some basil chifonnade?

***

  1. The day before you plan to make the soup, place 1 pound 16 bean soup mix in a bowl, cover by 2 inches with cold water, and cover. Set aside in the fridge.
  2. The next day, drain and rinse you beans. Put them in a soup pot along with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to simmer, and cook for 1 hour. Skim the scum.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large sauce pan, heat 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add 6 ounces diced pancetta and 1 diced onion and stir until onions are brown. Add 1 tablespoon slivered garlic, 30 ounces crushed tomatoes, 1 cup red wine, 4 cups chicken broth, 1 tablespoon salt, and 1 teaspoon black pepper. Remove from heat and set aside.
  4. Gently drain the beans and return 2/3rds of them to the pot. Pass the rest of the beans through a food mill into the pot, discarding what remains in the mill. To the beans, add the tomato mixture and 1 cup miniature pasta, such as ditalini. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook until pasta is done.
  5. Add 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, tasting for seasoning.

***

Serve with crusty bread with butter and red wine, for a simple dinner. This could also precede a multi-course Italian meal, with a roast lamb, greens, antipasto, etc.

LEFTOVER IDEAS: This re-heats easily on the stove. Just splash with some water and stir over medium heat.

*Recipe changed from the original.

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