The other day, someone asked me for a recipe for Pasta Fazool like his grandmother made. This was a request that was impossible since there are as many recipes for this traditional vegetarian, Italian dish as there are grandmothers. Some of you may remember Dean Martin singing … “When the stars make you drool justa like pasta fazool, that’s amore.” Pasta Fazool is the southern Italian dialect for Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans).
This traditional one pot meal provided the perfect balance of protein and carbohydrates as well as many wholesome sources of vitamins. It was also very inexpensive to prepare. Here is a basic recipe:
1 cup dried white beans, such as cannelloni or Great Northern, soaked overnight
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil plus more for serving
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 carrot, coarsely chopped
1 stalk celery, coarsely chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup finely chopped ripe plum tomatoes
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 sprig of thyme
¼ cup flat leaved Italian parsley
4 cups boiling water
½ pound of a small pasta (shells, small ziti, elbows, etc.)
Salt and black pepper to taste
Freshly grated parmesan cheese for garnish
Drain the beans and set aside.
Heat the oil in a large heavy saucepan over medium heat and gently sauté the onion, carrot, celery and garlic until they are soft, but not brown.
Add the beans to the vegetables along with the rosemary, tomatoes, thyme and parsley, plus 3 cups of boiling water.
Bring back to a boil and simmer for about 1 ½ hours. Add water from time to time insuring that the beans are always covered.
When the beans are tender, transfer about 2 cups and their liquid to a food processor and purée them, then stir the purée back into the beans.
Add the pasta and another cup of water to the pot and cook for about 10 minutes, until the pasta is al denté. Remove rosemary and thyme sprigs.
Serve in individual bowls and garnish with a small amount of olive oil, parmesan cheese and a sprig of parsley.
This recipe has the potential for infinite variations. If your Nonna is no longer around, you’ll have to experiment to capture the flavor that was her gift to you. You may vary the type of beans, any or all of the chopped vegetables, you may use chicken or beef stock instead of water or you may experiment with more exotic ingredients. I’ve seen recipes that included anchovies, clams, pancetta and sausage. The basic vegetarian recipe is easy to vary but very difficult to beat.
Mangia tutti! ~