Saturday, February 03, 2007

Bean and pasta soup

I've read many rave reviews about this soup before I actually tried it myself. For some reason, the combination of beans and pasta never appealed to me and I imagined this soup would be a bit bland and boring. Until I, having promised to make a new dish every week of this year, finally decided to give pasta e fagioli a try. Oh, dear. I can't even begin to tell you what I have been missing. Though made from only a handful of ingredients, it is surprisingly flavourful, the tastes of the beans and the cooked garlic emulsified, extremely satisfying and utterly comforting - a true winner which has immediately established itself as a staple in my kitchen. What was I thinking all these years, not making this soup? Pasta and bean soup is a classic italian dish and there must be many variations. I made mine according to hearty soups, delicious meals in a bowl, published at Ryland Peters & Small.

Pasta and bean soup (serves 6)

  • 185 dried cannellini or haricot beans
  • a pinch of bicarbonate of soda
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1.75 litres chicken stock
  • 100g short pasta shapes (I used ditaloni from Barilla)
  • 4 tomatoes skinned, deseeded and chopped
  • 4 tablespoons freshly chopped flat leaf parsley
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Put the beans and the bicarbonate of soda in a bowl, cover with water and soak overnight. Drain and put in a large saucepan. Add the olive oil, garlic and stock. Bring to the the boil, reduce the heat and simmer, part-covered with a lid for one to two hours until the beans are tender. Blend the beans with the cooking liquid. Return the bean purée to the rinsed pan, adding extra water or stock as necessary. Add the pasta and simmer gently for fifteen minutes until tender. Stir in the tomatoes and parsley and season well with salt and pepper. Serve with an extra trickle of olive oil.

If you, like me, are hungry and impatient when making this, cook the beans in a pressure cooker and then simmer them for about fifteen minutes with the olive oil and garlic in order for the flavours to combine. I also added a sprig of rosemary which I removed before blending the beans. Watch out when cooking the pasta, the bean purée has a nasty tendency to stick to the bottom of the pan. The only regret I have about this soup: it's not so great when reheated because the pasta will be overcooked. But then it tastes so good you might not even have leftovers.


kickpleat said...

wow, lots of great recipes here! i love that you are making a new dish every week this year. sounds like a very excellent challenge and something i've been thinking about too! it's strange to add baking soda to it a salt replacement? curious.

Honeybee said...

Kickpleat - thank you! The 2007 challenge has been fun so far! The baking soda supposedly helps soften the beans but you can probably leave it out.