We’ve been waking up to temperatures of about -4°C at La Madera this week, proving that the Mediterranean climate is an extreme one. So, while we wait for the return of the 38°C days we experienced last summer, it’s time for winter comfort food: and here’s some from my childhood, pasta e fagioli, or as they say in Venice, pasta e fasioi.
Pasta e fagioli is one of the few dishes which can be considered one of the grand classics of Italian cuisine. It is found, with slight variations, all over the north and centre of Italy, from the alps of Piemonte to the slopes of Vesuvius in the bay of Naples. It is considered to be part of the traditional cuisine of no less than six Italian regions including Tuscany and the Veneto.
In Tuscany it is often made with white beans or even chickpeas as opposed to the borlotti beans used in the Veneto. In Campania, it is served creamier than in the north, where it is considered more of a soup, like minestrone.
The pasta will also vary from region to region. I’ve seen it made with bits of broken spaghetti, or tagliatelle, but most of the major manufacturers now produce special mini pasta especially for this dish. Whatever you use, it should be in small bits. For the dish in the photos I used one called ditalini.
You can use dried beans or tinned beans for this dish. If you are using dried beans, you should soak them in water overnight first and then cook them for at least one hour (stage 4 of the recipe below) as opposed to 15 minutes for tinned beans. The weight in the recipe is for beans which have already been soaked and drained.
The version of the recipe below is based on the one that I was taught by my grandmother and so is a Venetian one. Like many northern Italian dishes, it uses butter which adds an extra level of comfort. For a vegetarian one, choose a vegetarian hard cheese such as pecorino. Leave out the cheese, and substitute the butter for oil and it’s vegan.
Pasta e fagioli
1 large onion
2 sticks celery
1 large carrot
15g (1 tablespoon) butter
a dash of olive oil
600g (21 ounces) borlotti beans, tinned and drained
1 litre (2 pints) vegetable stock
500g (17 ounces) small pasta
salt and pepper to taste
parmigiano reggiano cheese, grated
- Cut the onion, celery, and carrot into small dice.
- Melt the butter together with the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the vegetables and soften, about two minutes.
- Add the beans and continue to cook together for about 2 minutes.
- Add the stock. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.
- Remove 2/3 of the beans with a slotted spoon and liquidize them.
- Return the liquidized beans to the saucepan and stir to combine.
- Add the pasta to the soup and cook for two thirds of the manufacturer’s cooking time.
- Remove the saucepan from the heat, cover and leave for five minutes for the pasta to continue cooking.
- Season (if necessary) with salt and sprinkle black pepper and grated parmigiano reggiano cheese on top.
- Serve with crusty bread. Buon appetito!
This recipe has been entered into the linkup at Jo’s Kitchen.