In high school, my mother’s boyfriend Mario would often make this wonderful dish called Pasta Fazool. This funny sounding soup was delicious and I could eat it by the bowlfuls. Several years later I asked Mario for the recipe and like a typical Italian, he said that he didn’t have one…he just threw it together! After strong-arming a rough version out of him, I attempted the soup many times but could never get it quite right. The flavor didn’t have that special something and my leftovers would turn into Bloated Pasta with Beans. It wasn’t until recently that I got the craving again and started to research the recipe. Essentially, the ingredients can vary as long as you include pasta, tomatoes and beans. Whether you eat it alone or pair it with a panini like we do, it’s a hearty meal that warms you from the inside out and keeps you coming back for more.
1/4 lb. pancetta, sliced
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and chopped
2 – 3 stalks celery, chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp. red pepper flakes
2 cups ditilini (or other small pasta)
2 – 14 oz. cans cannellini beans
1 – 28 oz. can San Marzano diced tomatoes
1/2 cup white wine
1 tsp. fresh thyme, minced
1 tsp. fresh rosemary, minced
1/2 tsp. fresh sage, minced
32 oz. chicken broth
Fresh parmesan, for topping
Fresh basil, for topping
Good olive oil
Sauté the pancetta in olive oil until crispy. Remove to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside. Add the onions, celery, carrot and red pepper flakes to the drippings and cook until tender. Add the garlic to the pan and stir until softened. Add the chopped herbs and stir for a few minutes more. Deglaze with the white wine and add the broth, tomatoes and beans. Bring the soup to a boil, reduce to low and simmer for 15-20 minutes.
Meanwhile, boil water for the pasta and cook the ditilini until al dente. Drain the pasta well and coat with a thin layer of olive oil. We find that if you add the pasta to each serving, it will hold it’s shape and not take on too much of the broth.
Add a little pasta to the bottom of a bowl and cover with several servings of the soup. Top with fresh parmesan, basil and a good olive oil.
For a simple panino side dish, brush a small roll with olive oil and cover each half with provolone. Broil on high until the cheese is bubbly. Add prosciutto, Mama’s L’il Peppers and fresh basil and finish in a hot skillet with another heavy pan on top for weight.