Sep 25, 2008

Pasta & Bean Soup - Pasta e Fagioli

Well, I'm sad to say that summer is really behind us. On one hand, I miss the warmer temps (what little of them we had in Seattle this year). On the other hand, I'm excited to start cooking hearty soups.

Pasta and beans, or pasta e fagioli, is an Italian staple. Very economical, really easy, and wonderfully versatile. A simple search online will result in thousands of pasta e fagioli recipes. Some are similar to the version I know and love. Then again, some use no tomato, others are more broth based. I even found some that used ground beef (heavy sigh) but that was from The Olive Garden and, well, I won't even go there.

My family's version is usually meatless but sometimes we add tiny, homemade meatballs. I did add meat this time, chosing chicken sausage over pork. The pork clocked in at 210 calories and 16 grams of fat per link compared to the chicken sausage's 110 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per link. I used only two links for the whole pot because I just wanted meat as a compliment, adding some flavor and a bit more protein.

The version I grew up with always, without fail, included homemade, doughy pasta squares. Our family has a name for these (in the dialect of my Nanas who shared the same maiden name because they were cousins 4 or 5 times removed) but I've never been able to locate the origin or even any form of this word. I can only spell it phonetically: toh-KUTS. Sounds like "to cut" and that's what you do after you roll out a huge sheet of pasta dough. You slice it one way and then the other, like tic tac toe, and you are left with dozen of little squares.
The sound of the word is like toccata in music (from the Italian "toccarre" to touch). My surviving Nana (95 years old) is still sharp but she doesn't know the origin of the word. It's just what this pasta is called and that's it. By the way, to make homemade cavatelli, simply take your thumb and press and roll the toh-KUTS. Nana B. would cut a whole sheet of toh-KUTS and then with each thumb flying, start rolling cavatelli left and right.

My mom visited last December and she gave me and S and V a toh-KUTS and cavatelli lesson. You can see a couple toh-KUTS off to the side while V rolls a cavatelli.
This particular version of the soup is not the pasta e fagioli I grew up with but it's the same idea - pasta, beans, tomatoes. Earlier in the week, I cooked a whole box of multigrain penne in order to have an ingredient to use in several dishes. This soup is the second of three meals in which the pasta appeared. I wish I had photographed the penne with acorn squash and roasted red peppers. But we were too hungry to fiddle with the camera. Just know it was delicious.

Here's what I used for the pasta and beans:

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 15 ounce cans white beans, rinsed and drained
2 Italian chicken sausages, cooked and sliced

2 cups cooked multi-grain penne
1 28 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 15 ounce can of water
1 large onion, diced
salt and pepper to taste

small handful of fresh celery leaf, chopped

small handful of fresh Italian flat leaf parsely, chopped

dried herbs of your choice (I used basil and oregano), to taste

In a large soup pot heat the oil to medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic and cook for about five minutes. Add the remaining ingredients and combine. Lower heat and let soup simmer for about 30 minutes. The soup will thicken a bit as it sits and it always tastes better after it sits a while.


Sophie said...

This sounds wonderful, a perfect meal to get me through these rainy days. I like the idea of adding sausage! I've yet to make soup with sausage, looks like this was made with a lot of love :).

vb said...

Sophie, the love comes from we LOVE to eat. I like sausage in soups and stews if it's cooked first. Not a fan of "boiled" meats.


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