Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Beans-Pasta Fagoli-Ribollita

A timeless & typical Tuscan staple.. the bean. So many varieties, the oldest being black-eyed peas, grown back in Roman times... and then came along the cannelini or white bean which were highly suitable for the rich Tuscan soil & warm climate. Beans are low-cost, high in protein & energy providing staple whose mild flavor & textures go so well with the flavorful, yet simple Tuscan dishes. Two of our favorites, Ribollita.. bean & cabbage soup. Ribollita is certainly one of the most known dishes in the Tuscan food tradition. It is a very humble meal, whose origins are to be found in the poor peasants' households, where the vegetable leftovers were re-cooked with stale bread, adding some olive oil after cooking, to make them more tasty.... and Pasta Fagioli..a traditional Italian dish of beans and pasta thats so easy to make and so flavorful! Both, so healthy and if I must say, delicious! And perfect for those cold wintry days.

Aunty Ella's Pasta Fagioli

2 can Tomato paste
2 can Cannelini beans, rinsed well
1# Ditilini pasta
2 TBL Olive oil
1 Onion, sliced thin
3 garlic cloves, chopped
salt, pepper to taste

Saute the onions & garlic in olive oil. Once onions are soft and clear.. add the tomato paste, followed with equal (2 cans)*pasta water or tap water. Add a pinch of sugar to kill the acid from tomatoes. Bring this 'sauce' to a boil on low heat -- then, toss in your rinsed beans. I like to mash a few of my beans to thicken the pot. Let simmer 15 minutes or so. While simmering, cook the ditalini pasta al dente (not too soft). Strain pasta.. *reserving some of the water and add it to your simmering sauce along with the cooked pasta. Mix well. Cook for 5 minutes longer. Serve immediately with grated parmesean cheese...... and plenty of crusty Italian bread & a nice garden salad.

Pasta Fagioli is an Italian combination of beans and pasta in broth, which varies in consistency from a soup to a thick stew.

Pasta e Fagioli means "Pasta and Beans"
Pasta e Fagioli is pronounced "PAH-stah eh faj-YOH-lee"
Can be made with or without tomatoes
Made famous in Dean Martin's "That's Amore"
Tastes better the second day

Nunie's Ribollita Soup

1/4 cup Olive oil
2 stalks Celery, chopped
2 medium Carrots, chopped
1 medium Red onion, chopped
3 garlic Cloves, minced
3 tbsp. Chopped fresh parsley
1 tbsp. Chopped fresh rosemary
1 tbsp. Chopped fresh sage
a pinch of sugar

2 cups Canned Italian tomatoes, peeled and chopped (with juice)
2 tbsp. Tomato paste
3 cups Cooked cannellini beans, drained & rinsed(canned or dried & pre-cooked)
4 cups Chicken or vegetable broth
2 Zucchini, chopped
2 Potatoes, peeled and diced
1# Chopped cabbage,kale or red chard
Salt, pepper to taste
6-8 slices day- old Italian or French bread

Pour olive oil into a large pot, add celery, carrots, onions, seasonings, garlic and herbs. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, until vegetables are tender and golden(not browned), about 20 minutes. Add canned tomatoes with their juice and cook another 5 minutes or so.

Take 1 cup of the rinsed cannellini beans and puree in a food processor or food mill.

Add tomato paste, pureed cannellini beans and remaining 2cups whole beans, vegetable or chicken broth, remaining chopped vegetables and salt and pepper & that pinch of sugar.

Cover and cook all very slowly over low heat for approximately 2 hours. If the mixture becomes too thick, add more broth or water.

This soup is best made 12 hours to a full day ahead, allowing all flavors to mingle. The soup will be very thick.

To serve, place broken/torn slices of day-old, Italian country bread at the bottom of a large soup tureen or other large pot. Reheat soup, then pour hot soup over all and let sit for a minimum of 15-20 minutes.Alternatively, place a slice of bread in individual soup bowls, then pour soup over each. Serve at room temperature or slightly warm, with freshly grated cheese & a nice glass of wine.

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