Pasta e fagioli: the easiest and most famous Italian recipe

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The well-known “Pasta e Fagioli”: an Italian myth! Every family have got their own recipes: with or without garlic, with oil instead of bacon, with or without Parmigiano cheese, why not? You can make your own version very easily, it well fits every kind of personalizations. This is my own Pasta e Fagioli.

Pasta e fagioli: the easiest and most famous Italian recipe

I can still remember it very well: my mum and my beloved granny used to make me eat pasta and fagioli. I hated it! And I was so whimsical, I cried…my mum reproached me! A true tragedy! My granny used to be more “tender”- she tried to convince me that I had to open my mouth and then she pushed the soup directly into my throat with a sudden movement of her thumb, spoon after spoon. My mum was not as patient as my granny, so she pushed the spoon into my mouth then, she unloaded its content and closed my lips. I could not do anything else but swallow everything under her severe glance (when I think it was very funny, but at that time…). I really did not want to hear a think about it! The saddest meal in the world…it made me feel sick- when I saw it in my bowl I knew it was going to be a bad day! 
Yet, not it is one one my favorites, now! Embracing, hot, winterly, it means family-home sweet home! 
How can you fall in love with a dish you really don’t like? Cook it, and cook it over an over again, ingredient after ingredient. You become the protagonist of your recipe: create it in your pot, enjoy the smell which spread all over your kitchen. 
So, I think you you may have to create your own recipes in order to fall in love with those dishes you have always hated. A recipe is a kind of magical potion which turns from an unpleasant concoction into an exquisite dish- it will remind you of old times, spoon after spoon.
Course Main Course
Cuisine Italian
Keyword pasta e fagioli
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes

Ingredients

  • 400 gr

    dried fresh frozen borlotti or cannellini beans

  • 200 gr

    short or small pasta (you may poor for wholegrain pasta for a more rustic taste)

  • 1

    medium size carrot

  • 1 stalk

    celery

  • 1 small onion
  • 3 tbsp

    tomato paste or 200 ml of tomato sauce puree 

  • extra virgin olive oil (or 40 of lard or bacon for a strong taste)

  • 3 leaves

    laurel 

  • thyme, rosemary, or marjoram to your taste

  • salt and pepper (chili pepper to taste) 

  • 1 clove

    garlic to taste 

Instructions

  • If you use dried beans, soak them according to the method stated above. If you use frozen beans, bring some water to a rolling boil, add some salt and the beans: cook for about 10 minutes. If you use fresh beans, you do not need any preparation: rinse them under running water and they are ready for your recipe.
  • Prepare the vegetables: wash celery, onion, and carrot. Chop them very thinly and put them into a pot with a little oil or lard. 
  • Add the whole clove of garlic to your taste, stir fry over medium high heat until the sautéed vegetables get golden brown. Remove the garlic and stir in the beans.
  • Pour the tomato (pureed or paste).
  • Season with salt and pepper, and laurel. Cover with a lid and cook for about 15.20 minutes. 
  • If it gets too dry during the cooking, add some water or a little vegetable broth. 
  • Remove a third of the beans and the leaves of laurel, then bend the soup with a hand mixer, until an even creamy soup. 
  • Add some water or vegetable broth to make it more liquid. 
  • Bring it to a rolling boil again and add the pasta to your taste: dried or fresh. 
  • Cook pasta according to the package directions.
  • Add the beans you have set aside, season with more salt and pepper.
  • Garnish with a little oil, and the aromatic herbs to your taste.
  • Serve it very hot, with some freshly grated Parmigiano.

Pasta e fagioli in Italy immediately reminds us of our grannies- its full, soft aromatic taste means family, tradition, home sweet home!

The base of my recipe is a genuine mix of sautéed vegetables: carrots, celery, and onion. I will add beans first, then pasta. A little tomato paste makes it appetizingly smooth, laurel and your favorite aromatic herbs give it a unique scent. Can you make it only in Italy? Not at all! The ingredients you need for this traditional Italian dish are easily available all over the world. Here, I am going to tell you how to cook it step by step.

Healthy and balanced, Pasta e Fagioli is a traditional peasant winter dish. You need to choose carefully the right simple ingredients which want a slow but not long cooking.

A little advice about the ingredients: this is what you need!

  • Beans: these pulses are very rich in vegetable proteins, potassium, folic acid, magnesium, and iron. Borlotti (cranberry) beans best fit this soup. Their brownish spotted color gets uniform during the cooking; meaty and sweet (so you will have to add some more salt), they well absorb  the taste of the other ingredients. For a more delicate taste, opt for cannellini (navy), or pinto beans which make the dish richer in color. Red beans fit perfectly too! Nor green neither black beans are appropriate for the recipe. According to the kind of bean you buy-frozen, fresh, or dried, the method and the cooking time will slightly vary. 
  • Sautéed vegetables attenuate the natural sweet taste of the dish. You want an onion, a carrot, some celery and a clove of garlic (extra), you will remove it during the cooking, so leave it as a whole.
  • Tomato paste, or tomato puree: it is up to you. Tomato paste ensures a stronger taste; tomato sauce is more delicate. Anyway, opt for high quality products: Mutti is the best tomato puree  according to my opinion. Mix it with a little tomato paste until you get your favorite result.
  • Extra virgin olive oil: in the past, and in some parts of Italy oil used to be replaced by lard or bacon-they melt and add plenty of flavor to the dish. I opt for extra virgin olive oil which is rich in Vitamin E and naturally free from saturated fats.
  • Pasta to your taste, as long as it is short shape. I prefer striped or smooth ditaloni, short “mezze maniche” or “pipe”, or any mix of pasta. When I have little pasta of different shapes which are not enough for a single serving on their own, I put everything together-it is a perfect mix for this recipe! Fresh pasta is also appropriate: use the leftovers of the tagliatelle you have just made, cut it coarsely and your “maltagliati” will enrich pasta e fagioli.
  • Fresh aromatic herbs: set your imagination free! You should use different types of herbs to enhance your recipe: one with hard leaves during the cooking, such as laurel, and then sprinkle  with a very flavorful one such as rosemary, thyme, or marjoram. 

How you can prevent the bulging stomach due to pulses:

Beans may lead to bulging stomach. If you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, you may experience some collateral effects which are provoked by the fermentation of the fibers on the surface of the beans and  by the starch and the sugar in the intestinal microbita.

So, take tese precautions.

    • Eat only decorticated pulses
    • Soak the pulses in water and change it a few times, do not use the soaking water to cook the pulses;
    • Cook slowly until they are completely done;
    • Chew well and slowly; do not add any more sugar to you meal (so, no cakes neither fruit after pasta e fagioli);
    • Two leaves of laurel could help with keeping under control the bulging effect of the bears because that have soothing properties.

How can you eat pasta e fagioli? A few hints

  • It is a quite light dish but it can get very rich in calories if you are not careful about the quantity of pasta. Half of the average serving of pasta is enough when it is paired with pulses. For a woman, 50 gr of dried beans and 40 gr of pasta is enough; whereas a little more for an average man:  70 gr of dried beans and 60 gr of pasta.
  • If you want to make this recipe completely vegetarian, use only extra virgin olive oil. On the other hand, if you want to allow yourself a very flavorful and rustic soup, use the lard and for one day forget about the your diet, of course this is not vegetarian.
  • You should have this dish for lunch, and combine it with a nice crispy salad. Complete your meal with an orange or a fresh orange squash: it will make you absorb more iron from this preparation.

You will find out everything about preparing beans!

Beans, as every kind of pulses must be cooked, you can’t eat them raw.

Be careful with the choice: dried beans must be intact, bright colored, and with even sizes. Discard dark, empty damaged seeds, because they are old and badly-stored: they won’t get rehydrated.

Beans just want to be soaked and rehydrated for about 6 to 8 hours before cooking (you should soak them the night before and cook in the morning).

  • Soaking beans makes them rehydrated and faster to cook, it doesn’t affect the content of mineral salt and vitamins at all. This process also reduces the gas producing compounds. You may soak and rehydrate them, then use or freeze them.
  • Slow soaking: discard the damaged spotted beans and wash them in running cold water. Soak the beans and discard those which float on the surface. Then put the beans into a big bowl and pour a quantity of water 3 times the beans and set aside in the fridge or in a cold place  overnight.
  • Fast soaking: choose the most intact beans and put them into a pot; pour 1 littler of water every 180 gr of dried beans and bring to a boil; boil briskly for a couple of minutes, remove from the heat. Cover with a lid and set aside for 1-2 hours or until they get hydrated and bloated. Drain and cook according to your recipe.
  • In the microwave oven: arrange the beans onto a tray big enough to contain them when they are hydrated: cover with cold water and cook on HIGH for about 8-10 minutes. Set aside for 1 hour.
  • In case of frozen beans, boil them into salty water for about 20 minutes and or follow my advice later on in the recipe of Pasta e fagioli.

Are beans vegetables? No, definitely not! Don’t be cheated!

Can they replace meat? No. Although they are quite rich in proteins in their bromatologic composition, they also contain more carbs than you think. They are “proteic cereals”- they have a quite high glycemic index (it raises the level of sugar in the blood during the digestion), but the effect of the carbs is well balanced by the fibers which slow down both their digestion and absorption. So, beans are definitely similar to pasta: they should be eaten as moderately as you eat a dish of pasta. In Italy, it may be considered a main dish according to the criteria of the Mediterranean diet- have it preferably for lunch side with a serving of vegetables.

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