Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli

November 3, 2010

This year, we went through the month of Sicktober (and Sucktober) at the House of T. Miss D. and Miss M. passed this contagion–we refer to it as HackBoogeyman–back and forth for 31 days. This was definitely not pleasant, but hubs and I consoled ourselves with the fact that at least we, the navigators of this sinking ship, remained disease-free.

Our pride came back to bite our butts the last week of October. The week of Halloween, every human was illin’ at our house.  We were a miserable, self-pitying lot. Miss M. and Miss D., both now completely used to being snot-ridden, weathered it with nary a peep, but hubs and I were ridiculously pathetic.

HackBoogeyman is a mean little bastard. Even hubs, who is rarely sick beyond a day or two, was down for most of the week. The night before Halloween, we rallied and attended a costume party because we didn’t want to disappoint the girls. Within an hour, SuperGirl and The Green Lantern had apparently lost all superpowers, because we scurried, wheezing, back home to our beds.

Luckily, we were on the  mend a few days later. I owe my recovery partly to this soup, which fed me most of the week.  Maybe my body was trying to tell me something, because the day before HackBoogeyman struck, I made a pot of this soup. Hubs isn’t a kale fan, so I ended up eating almost all of this myself.  It’s warm, nourishing and delicious.

The key to flavoring this soup is the Secret of the Rind. Do you know this little trick? Some wily Italian grandmother figured out this bit of tomfoolery and I’m telling you–adding a piece of the hardened end of a hunk of Parmiggiano-Reggiano cheese to the broth? Genius. Who knew that the inedible rind of a block of cheese=flavor magic?

You can use the Secret of the Rind when you make any hearty vegetable soup, such as Minestrone or, as I did last week, Pasta Fagioli.

Pasta Fagioli is kind of a soup/pasta hybrid. It’s not quite a pasta dish and not quite a soup. Despite the identity crisis, Pasta Fagioli is delicious. I went to high school with quite a few Italians, and there’s always rich argument about what a “true” bowl of Pasta Fagioli is.  Every family seems to have it’s own recipe, and every family vociferously defends it’s version as “authentic.”  It’s pretty entertaining to watch them argue, actually–you’ve never seen such hand-waving in your life.

Whether you add white beans or brown, tomatoes or no tomatoes, kale or carrots, your version is certain to be tasty as long as you heed the Secret of the Rind.

Make this the next time you get some dreaded disease or on a cold winter weekend; it’s a savory bowl of comfort.

Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli

serves 4 to 6

from Food Network Magazine

5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling

5 cloves garlic, smashed

1 small onion, roughly chopped

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or more to taste

1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh rosemary

1 2-ounce piece pancetta (optional)

5 canned whole San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand

kosher salt

1 cup dried cranberry beans, soaked overnight

2 bay leaves

1 piece Parmesan cheese rind, plus 1/2 cup grated Parmesan and extra for topping

2 cups small pasta, such as shells or ditalini

1 bunch kale, stems and ribs discarded, leaves chopped

1/4 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley

Freshly ground black pepper

Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, rosemary and pancetta and cook 2 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes and cook 2 more minutes; season with salt. Add the soaked beans, 3 cups water, the bay leaves and parmesan rind. Cover and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.

Uncover the pot and bring the mixture to a boil over high heat. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, about 8 minutes. Add the kale and cook, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. (The soup should be thick and creamy; thin with water, if necessary.)

Remove the bay leaves, parmesan rind and pancetta. Add the grated Parmesan, parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Top with more cheese and olive oil, if desired.

Click here for an Awesome eggplant recipe, courtesy of Rebecca!  Veggie lovers, you’re in for a treat!

I’d also love it if you’d join me at The Happiest Mom today! We’re talking about the unique challenges of cooking for children and families! I love Meagan’s blog, and I know you will too!

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

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