Last night my sister and I begged our dad to make his pasta e fagioli—a bean and pasta soup—for dinner. Mine is never quite as good as his, so last night I watched carefully. Why does mine get too thick or pasty sometimes? He says it’s because of the beans and pasta I’m using. He finds that the Strianese cannellini beans have the right liquid-to-bean ratio; the fancy ones sold in jars usually don’t have enough liquid and you end up having to add more stock. (A word on stock—using half chicken and half beef is a nice balance—all chicken would be too mild; all beef too overpowering.) I was also using Rustichella d’Abruzzo orecchiette, which is fantastic in a carbonara situation, but my dad feels is too starchy for this dish and can contribute to pastiness. He likes DeCecco. Finally, he splurges on the olive oil—spicy Laudemio from Tuscany.
To go with our smoky, spicy soup, my dad pulled out a magnum of 1988 Kongsgaard “Judge’s” Barbera. What a treat to taste such an old Napa wine—still had a good amount of fruit, but Old World earthiness and nice acid to balance the strong pancetta flavors in the soup.
Edward’s Pasta e Fagioli
3 15 ½ ounce cans cannellini beans, Strianese Fagioli Cannellini preferred
½ cup spicy extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling, Frescobaldi Laudemio preferred
1 medium Texas sweet onion, such as Sweetie Sweet
1 clove garlic, minced
6 slices pancetta
2 tsp minced Italian parsley
2 tsp minced rosemary leaves
2 tsp minced fresh oregano
2 cups beef stock
2 cups chicken stock
½ cup canned crushed tomatoes
½ tsp red pepper flakes
½ lb orecchiette, DeCecco preferred
Shaved parmigiano reggiano for garnish
Drain 1 can of beans. Set aside. Puree other two cans with their liquid in blender until smooth. Mix whole beans with puree; set aside.
Julienne four slices of pancetta, trimming off fat.
In a large soup pot, heat ¼ cup oil. Add onion and two whole strips pancetta, saute until golden, about 5 minutes. Add garlic, julienned pancetta, and herbs. Saute 4 minutes.
Transfer sautéed ingredients to blender or food processor and puree until smooth. (If using blender, do in batches.) Return pureed ingredients to soup pot, along with remaining ¼ cup olive oil, the bean mixture and chicken and beef stock. Bring to a boil, add tomatoes, hot red pepper flakes and pasta. Cook until pasta is al dente, about 13 minutes. Serve immediately, and garnish with thick flakes of shaved parmigiano.