Pasta e Fagioli
We start thinking about this beloved Italian peasant soup as soon as the temperature starts to drop. Basically pasta and beans – pasta e fagioli, often pronounced ‘fazool’ in the United States – in a tomatoey broth, it has all the appeal of tomato and noodle soups with added heartiness from the legumes. We like to round it out with some spinach, although it’s not necessary, and follow the tradition of topping the soup with Parmesan cheese (be generous!). We also like to add olive oil, preferably the good stuff. As the renowned Italian chef Lidia Bastianich of Felidia in New York advises, drizzle olive oil on a dish before it’s served to give it a ‘smile’.
Serves 4 to 6
1 tbsp olive oil
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
leaves from 4 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme
large pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
180g ditalini or other small pasta
1 x 400-425g tin cannellini beans, drained
2 large handfuls of baby spinach (optional)
good olive oil
freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino cheese
In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onions and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are softened, about 6 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes, thyme, and pepper flakes, season with salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until slightly thickened, about 5 minutes.
Stir 720ml water into the tomato mixture and season with salt. Bring to a boil over high heat, then stir in the pasta. Reduce the heat and briskly simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is just al dente, about 9 minutes. Stir in the beans and spinach (if using) and simmer until heated through, about 2 minutes. Check the seasonings. Serve with the olive oil and cheese.
Extracted from The Dinner Plan: Simple Weeknight Recipes and Strategies for Every Schedule by Kathy Brennan and Caroline Campion (Abrams, approx €25), http://abramsandchronicle.co.uk/books/food-and-drink/9781419726583-the-dinner-plan
Photograph – 2017 Maura McEvoy