It’s raining. Again. Route 9 is flooded in both directions and I can’t get to a 6:00pm meeting because it would take me until 7 to get there with whatever detours are not already clogged with traffic. Of course, I learned there were no detours that weren’t completely backed up. Ugh. Plan B. Cook.
Although it’s been insanely hot, it has rained SO much lately that I’m okay doing some stick-to-your-ribs soups when it’s so wet outside.
I’ve already confessed that I love all things Italian and beans are no different. The cranberry bean, or Borlotti bean, is actually my favorite. So, I wanted to do a pasta fagiola, but incorporating two of my favorites - Borlotti beans and pancetta (instead of ground beef). A note about the amount of tomatoes and broth: I tend to enjoy my soups and stews on the thicker side, but many don’t. Add more broth and/or tomatoes as you see fit to reach the right consistency.
1 pound Borlotti beans
2 Tbsp olive oil
1 lb. pancetta, chopped
1 1/2 cups chopped yellow onion
1 cup diced carrots (about 2 medium)
1 cup diced celery (about 3 stalks)
3 cloves garlic, minced (1 Tbsp)*
24-30 cherry tomatoes, halved
4 cups low-sodium beef broth (plus extra)
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 tsp dried basil
1 tsp dried oregano
3/4 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp dried marjoram
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup dry ditalini pasta**
3 bay leaves
1 Romano or Parmesan rind (optional)
Finely shredded Romano or Parmesan cheese, for serving
3 Tbsp chopped fresh basil
Borlotti beans need to be soaked before they are cooked in a recipe. There are “methods” for pre-cooking them, but they never turn out as well as if you do it right. Slow food :)
Clean and rinse the beans, then put them in a lidded pot or other container, ensuring that the water covers the beans by a couple of inches.
Soak them overnight or for at least 8 hours. Don’t ever salt the bean water until the beans are cooked or they will seize up and not cook correctly.
Heat 2 Tbsp olive oil in a large pot over medium high heat, crumble in pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally until cooked through.
Add onions, carrots, and celery and saute over medium-high heat until tender about 6 minutes, add garlic and saute 1 minute longer.
* Some people have stomach problems if they eat too much garlic. I don’t. So I add as many cloves as I feel like peeling.
Add beef broth, tomatoes, sugar, basil, oregano, thyme, marjoram then season with salt and pepper to taste.
Add Bay leaves.
Bring to a boil then reduce heat to medium-low, cover with lid and allow to simmer, stirring occasionally, until veggies are soft, about 15 - 20 minutes.
Meanwhile prepare ditalani pasta according to directions on package, cooking to al dente.
Add cooked and drained pasta to soup** along with Borlotti beans.
Thin with a little more broth or water if desired.
Allow to cook 15-20 minutes longer., tasting before you’re done.
Serve warm with grated Romano or Parmesan cheese and a little fresh basil.
**If you don’t plan on eating all of the soup right away I recommend adding the pasta to individual servings. Otherwise pasta gets soggy and absorbs too much broth.
I love to pair wine with food, but this time, I paired the pasta fagiola with a movie - Under The Tuscan Sun.
It’s a great movie that awakened my wanderlust (an easy thing to do), but at least I had the soup.