Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli…a simple soup fit for a sleepwalker!

When I first arrived in Italy and saw Pasta e Fagioli on the menu I remember thinking to myself what a weird combination; pasta and beans together. It was some while before I actually tried Pasta e Fagioli and discovered the magic of this wonderfully simple soup with yes, pasta and beans together as well as a few other key ingredients.

Every culture has it’s favoured soups and where we Brits offer tea to our guests in many countries soup is seen as a fitting welcome for visitors. My husband had a rather unusual visitor a few nights back whilst staying at his mothers house. Having returned late from a footie match he latched the door and headed to bed only to be woken in the early hours by the sound of the door closing. He roused himself from his slumber only to find a scantily clad man gracing the sofa in nothing more than his underpants. Unsure of his visitors motives he soon gathered himself with the realisation that most thiefs and criminals tend to come a calling fully clothed! With that, he opened the door and gently suggested his visitor “Go Home” and luckily enough the man obliged. The only reminder of this unexpected social call? The man had kindly moved a couple of objects in the lounge to better suit his design ethic!

Whilst no soup was proffered on this occassion, Pasta e Fagioli would be a comforting welcome to any guest. With many in Italy disputing its origins most claim the soup originated in the Veneto and Tuscany regions and previously in ancient Rome. It’s regarded as a simple peasant soup designed to fill the stomach with the combination of beans and pasta but in modern times it has been re-invented and turned into more of a showpiece. Traditionally eaten as an autumn-winter dish when pork / pancetta is widely available, I decided to knock up a batch to warm us in this current bad weather we’ve been having in northern Italy.

Italians often have very fixed ideas about their recipes and particularly about preserving them but soup for me is usually a means of using up a few left overs from the fridge so whilst I follow the traditional recipe I do also improvise from time to time.

Ingredients: 1 onion, 1 clove garlic, 1 stick celery, 1-2 carrots, 100g pancetta, 400g borlotti beans (dried or tinned), 300g small pasta (look for pastas designed for soups), 3/4 litre stock (vege or meat), salt and pepper, olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon fresh chilli (optional), 1 branch fresh rosemary (optional), 100g peeled tomatoes (optional). Grated parmesan to serve.

Preparation: 20 mins + 2 hours cooking

  1. If using dried borlotti beans, first soak over night in water and then boil for c.40 mins until cooked.
  2. Finely chop the onion and frywith the chilli in a bit of olive oil in a large saucepan. Add in the garlic, pancetta and finely chopped celery and carrots and allow to cook together.
  3. If using tomatoes add them at this stage. I personally prefer it with out and favour a rich home made vegetable stock to boost flavour.
  4. Take your canned or pre-cooked beans and add in 1/3 of them and mash slightly with a wooden spoon to create a pulp which will go on to thicken your soup. Add in the rest of the beans with the stock and bring to the boil. Allow to simmer for 45 mins so that the flavours start to combine and the beans start to thicken the soup.
  5. Some people prefer to cook the pasta apart and then add in but I’m a big believer in one pot cooking so once your stock has simmered for c.45 minutes I add in my pasta with a pinch of salt and pepper. Lastly I throw in the rosemary to add an additional dimension of flavour but both the chilli and rosemary are optional depending on your taste buds.
  6. Allow the soup to simmer for a further 30 mins or until the pasta is sufficiently cooked and then serve with an extra splash of olive oil and grated parmesan.

Enjoy with or without a sleepwalker!

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Comments
3 Responses to “Recipe: Pasta e Fagioli…a simple soup fit for a sleepwalker!”
  1. Lovely soup! I can eat soup for breakfast, lunch and supper. I’m so gonna try this recipe.

  2. Karen says:

    One of my favorite soups and just the way I make too.

  3. That looks great! I wish we did offer soup to people in Britain, I should set the trend – I’m a soup fiend.

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