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Pasta e Fagioli

Here, beans and pasta are combined in a classic soup of southern Italy. Borlotti beans, which are ivory-beige with maroon speckles, are also known as cranberry beans. If you can find fresh borlotti shell beans, which are in season in late summer and early autumn, you can substitute 2 cups of them for the dried beans. Cook them in boiling water until tender, about 30 minutes.

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup dried borlotti beans 
  • 8 cups cold water
  • 2 garlic cloves  
  • 3 Tbs. olive oil 
  • 1 yellow onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped 
  • 1 celery stalk, thinly sliced 
  • 1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and finely chopped 
  • 8 cups beef or chicken broth 
  • 2 cups ditalini, tubettini or other small hollow pasta 
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste 

Directions:

Pick over the beans and discard any misshapen beans or stones. Rinse the beans under cold running water and drain. Place in a large bowl with cold water to cover generously and let soak for at least 4 hours or up to overnight. Drain the beans, rinse well and transfer to a large saucepan. Add the cold water and garlic and bring to a boil over high heat, skimming off the foam that rises to the surface. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Drain and set aside.

In another large saucepan over medium heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion, carrot and celery and sauté until the onion is golden, 6 to 8 minutes. Add the tomato, broth and cooked beans and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. If desired, to thicken the soup, remove 1 cup and puree in a food processor or blender. Add the pureed soup back to the saucepan and stir to combine. Raise the heat to medium, add the pasta and cook until al dente, 8 to 10 minutes.

Season the soup with salt and pepper. Ladle into warmed soup bowls and serve immediately. Serves 6.

Adapted from Williams-Sonoma Essentials of Italian by Michele Scicolone (Oxmoor House, 2007).