There’s something especially satisfying about winter cooking: soups, stews, braises. They seem perfectly suited to Sunday afternoons: cooked slowly, enjoyed at a leisurely pace. Today, in the middle of the ‘hurry’ season, I enjoyed an unhurried afternoon in the kitchen, attempting to perfect the simple yet delicious pasta e fagioli. Since pasta e fagioli (unlike so many other Italian dishes),was never a staple in my family, I don’t have a recipe. I’ve tinkered with a few cookbook recipes, but never found just the right one. So this time, I composed my own, pretty much by feel. I’m quite happy with the results
Mise en place:
A handful of carrots, a handful of celery stalks, a small onion – coarsely chopped
A teaspoon of minced garlic
A 4 ounce package of Cittero diced pancetta (available at Wegmans and so much easier than chopping your own!)
Two cans of beans. I used Goya ‘small white beans’ but Navy beans, ceci beans, cannellini or any other similar variety would also work.
A carton of low-salt broth
A 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
2 T chicken soup base
1/4 cup or so white wine
1/2 lb small macaroni. I like ditalini for this soup, but elbow macaroni or any other small pasta shape would also work.
Soffrito: Saute the pancetta in olive oil until browned. Add the chopped vegetables, sprinkle lightly with salt, and continue sauteing until slightly softened. Add the garlic and stir for a minute.
Soup: Add the beans, drained. Add the tomatoes. Rinse the can with the wine and add it to the pot. Dissolve the soup base in a cup of hot water and add it to the pot. Bring to a boil; then lower to a simmer.
Seasoning: Season with salt, pepper, parsley, bay leaf and lots and lots of chopped fresh rosemary. Simmer 20 minutes or so, until the vegetables are slightly tender. Remove the bay leaf.
The soup improves overnight and also freezes well. Cook and add the pasta (al dente) just before serving. Serve with pecorino romano cheese, crusty bread and salad for the perfect wintertime Sunday early supper.