Monday, January 7, 2013

Pasta E Fagioli

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Here we are.  January.  I have stripped the house of Christmas, except the nativity, which will get packed up today.  I can't put it back in the attic until Epiphany, it just doesn't seem right.  It also reminds me of Slava, which is the Serbian feast day and we celebrated this weekend as well.  Nothing too exciting, roast chicken and pita.  Serbian Pita, not pita bread! Delicious.  But so is soup when the temp dips into the 20's.

One of my favorite cook books of all time is Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax.  After I started stalking his work, I was saddened to learn that he passed away a very young man.  So then my mission was to get all of his cookbooks.  Get In There And Cook is one of those books.  Published in 1997, it is a great book with little cooking lessons in each recipe, and was his last book.  He passed in 1995, and his dear friend finished the project for him.

The Pasta E Fagioli recipe is pretty straightforward and simple, but I went ahead and changed all those little things I do.  Like Pancetta for the Prosciutto, fire roasted tomatoes for the whole, change up the order a bit, and add some super healthy kale to finish.  I think Richard would approve.  He was a teacher, and his recipe is a perfect starting point to run away with a great dish.  Here's how mine went.

Pasta E Fagioli

2 T olive oil
1/3# thick sliced pancetta
2 yellow onions thickly sliced
1/2 red and 1/2 yellow bell pepper sliced in thin strips
2 carrots, cleaned and sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 cup shredded basil leaves (fresh only)
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch dried red pepper flakes
2, 14.5oz cans of diced, fire-roasted tomatoes
2 cans canellini beans, rinsed
7 cups chicken stock (low salt is best)
2 1/2 cups dried pasta (short is best)
salt and pepper to taste
2 scallions thinly sliced on the diagonal
fresh grated parmesan cheese, for serving

In a large pot, heat oil and cook pancetta to desired state of crispy.  Add onions, carrots, peppers and saute until they begin to soften.  Add garlic, half of the basil, oregano and dried red pepper and stir occasionally to keep everything cooking evenly.  When the liquid is dried up in the pan, add the tomatoes the beans, and the chicken stock. When it boils, turn heat down to a simmer and let it go.  I let mine simmer for a few hours.  If the liquid is disappearing, add a little water and cover the pot.  It can be made to this point and chilled.

To serve, bring back to a boil, adding more liquid if necessary, and add the dried pasta.  Cook just to al dente.  Season with salt and pepper, add the rest of the basil, and ladle into bowls with a garnish of scallions and parmesan.  I also topped it with a little roasted kale. A drizzle of olive oil is good too!  Buon Appetito!

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