Pasta e fagioli is a classic italian recipe, a «primo» you will find anywhere in the italian peninsula, from the northest parts of Trentino – Alto Adige to the southest corners of Sicily. It has its roots deeply immersed in the history of the rural parts of the country and, frankly, I don’t know many Italians that haven’t tasted it and/or love it. There are as many recipes as there are families, but the main thing you need to remember is this: small pasta and beans. Lots of beans. And tomato.
As far as this particular dish we cooked goes, we had to improvise a bit, since we decided to make it at the very last minute. OK, that’s not entirely true, we decided to make it in the morning, but there were leftovers that needed to go, so we changed things a bit and added leftover rotisserie chicken. Because we had it. We also added a (very very hot) red chili pepper from our own pepper plant, because we wanted to try it. Yes, it was the very first chili from our own plant and it was fan-ta-stic. All in all, comfort food at its best.
One note: You are welcome to use canned beans and you are welcome to use any beans you like. We used dry cannellini beans, because that’s what we had in our jars, but anything is fine. We boiled the beans for more than two hours before using them in our dish, a step which, of course, you will skip if you are using canned beans. Also, keep in mind that dry beans take less time to boil if you soak them in water from the night before. In other words, don’t take our word for the time needed, always test your food.
Now, let me see if I remember everything we did.
What you’ll need:
½ cup dry beans, which you will boil along with some bay, a little oil, pepper. I always add a little lemon at the end.
Some pancetta, prosciuto or bacon (I used 4 rashers of bacon. They weren’t very thin, fyi)
1 large onion
1 red chili pepper from your garden (or from the supermarket) (optional)
(celery – I didn’t use any because we don’t like it, but everyone else loves it)
A couple of bay leaves
Some thyme or oregano
About ¾ cup of ditalini
1 can crushed tomato
1-2 cups of rotisserie chicken
1 litre of chicken broth, vegetable broth or water
What you’ll do
- Ready the beans, by boiling them for endless hours, until they are ready.
- Chop the carrots, the onion, the chili pepper and the garlic (and the celery, if using).
- Cut the bacon in not-very-small pieces. Heat some olive oil in a pot over medium heat and add the bacon. Let it render some of its fat and then add the veggies (garlic included), the bay leaves (break them in half first), the rosemary and thyme or oregano and give them a swirl. Add some salt and pepper and let them cook for 4-5 minutes.
- Add the tomato and bring everything to a boil.
- Add the beans along with about a cup of its juice. The thicker it is, the better. Bring to a boil again.
5 and a half. If you want, you can take about a cup of the bean mixture as it has cooked by now and blend it, then pour it back in the pot. That will make your mixture thicker, and, according to the old Italians, the thicker the better.
- Add the chicken, let it be incorporated with the rest and then add the broth (or water, whatever you are using). Bring everything to a boil.
- Once everything is boiling, add the pasta and let it boil. Cook for as long as the pasta needs to be prepared. At some point, taste for seasoning.
- Serve with some Parmesan cheese and some parsley.
This recipe yields 3-4 servings, depending on how much you eat and whether you are having it as a primo or secondo.