Pasta e fagioli

Pasta and beans, that’s what this is all about. Pasta e fagioli is one of our absolute favourite dishes from rural Italian cuisine. It is prepared in a very similar way to pasta e ceci, a dish with chickpeas.

In Italy, beans of the Borlotti variety, also known as cranberry or rose coco beans, are often used for this. They give the dish a darker colour. We cook with Cannellini, a type of white bean that is also typical of pasta e fagioli.

Cannellini are about 5 mm long when dried and, like most pulses, must first be soaked in cold water overnight or for at least 12 hours. They do not quite double in volume during this time.

If you can’t get hold of Borlotti or Cannellini, use a different, small bean variety and you will certainly achieve very good results. Of course, the dish also works with pre-cooked tinned beans, but we usually buy dried pulses because they use fewer resources for packaging and transport.

We drain the soaked beans and cook them in fresh water with bay leaves and peeled garlic cloves. This takes about 60 – 80 minutes for Cannellini and Borlotti. Bring the beans to the boil with about four times the amount of water, then put a lid on and reduce the heat to half, which saves energy. Taste after an hour to see if the beans are cooked. They should keep their shape but be easy to crush.

Other ingredients are carrot, celery and onion, we also like to use a little garlic. You also need strained tomatoes and small pasta, the ditalini shape is particularly suitable. The dish is flavoured with rosemary and sage and seasoned with salt and pepper. We like a slight spiciness and use one dried peperoncino for every two portions.

Put some olive oil in a large pan on a medium-high heat and add the finely chopped peperoncino first so that the spiciness is well distributed throughout the dish later.

After 2 minutes, add the finely diced vegetables, carrot, celery and onion and sauté for a further 2 minutes.

Finely chopped garlic is then added. In Italy, this dish is often cooked with lard and diced bacon and the flavour of the bacon does indeed harmonise very well with that of the beans. We have also used some smoked bacon, but this is not necessary and the dish can easily be made vegan.

The garlic and bacon are also only sautéed for a further 2 minutes.

Drain the cooked beans but keep the cooking water. Pour the beans through a sieve into another container or lift the beans out of the pot with a skimmer.

Now add the beans, strained tomatoes, chopped herbs and a ladleful of the bean cooking water to the vegetables.

Mix everything together and season to taste with salt and ground black pepper. The mixture should not contain too little liquid, as the pasta will be cooked in it later. If necessary, add a little more of the cooking water from the beans. Then simmer over a medium heat with the lid on for 20 minutes so that the flavours can combine. Stir occasionally during this time to prevent the beans from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Now you can season again with salt and pepper if necessary. As with pasta e ceci, puree some of the contents of the pot to give the dish more creaminess. To do this, you can puree about a quarter of it in a blender and put it back into the pot – or, like us, simply hold a hand blender briefly in the pot, just at the edge and in one place, until you have a thick bean soup with a creamy sauce and lots of beans and vegetable pieces left whole.

Now add the noodles.

Cooking in the sauce ensures that the pasta absorbs a lot of its flavour, but it also extends the cooking time by around 25-30%. Stir regularly, as the dish can burn very easily now.

If the sauce is too thick, simply add more cooking water from the beans.

That’s all there is to it. Cheese has no place in this dish. We just like to add a few splashes of very good olive oil when serving.

Enjoy.

And may the taste be with you.

Ingredients (for 2 people as a full meal):

160 g dried beans ( Borlotti or Cannellini)

2 bay leaves

2 whole garlic cloves, peeled

3 tbsp olive oil

1 dried peperoncino (optional)

1 carrot, 1 celery stick, 1 onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

50 g bacon, diced (optional)

140 g strained tomatoes

1 sprig each of rosemary and sage, leaves finely chopped

Salt and pepper

160 g Ditalini Rigati (or other small pasta)

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