As I mentioned in my previous post, I will be doing a series of entries over the next several months on classic versions of traditional Italian dishes. This is my first in the series, although I may eventually re-tag the bolognese recipe I made recently (see it two posts down from this one). My mom mailed me this recipe from her Marcella Hazan cookbook. There is no doubt that this is a classic recipe, as Marcella Hazan is the absolute authority on traditional Italian food. This soup was delicious and had so much texture, with a nice salty bite. The shredded pork definitely added a lot and made it different from other versions I’ve had. This is certainly not a quick version of pasta e fagioli, but it is worth the time.
One of the key ingredients in this dish is dried cranberry beans. Finding this item took an in-store call to my dad to have him Google and see if Roman beans were the same thing – I had seen pictures of cranberry beans before, and the Roman beans looked the same to me, but I wasn’t sure. Indeed, cranberry beans and Roman beans ARE the same thing, so if your store calls them Roman beans like mine does, now you’ll know what to buy. If you absolutely can’t find either one, you could use light kidney beans or pink beans.
Pasta e Fagioli
Adapted from: A Marcella Hazan recipe as recounted by my mom
¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
½ large sweet onion, finely diced
1 carrot, diced
1 rib celery, diced
Pork with a bone (you can use a few ribs, country ribs, a ham bone with some meat attached, or two small bone-in pork chops). I used 2 large bone-in country ribs.
2/3 cup Italian chopped tomatoes in juice (I used Pomi)
1 cup dried cranberry (aka Roman) beans, either soaked in cold water overnight or brought to a boil for 2 minutes and then allowed to sit covered for 2 hours
3 cups beef stock
¼ lb. small tubular pasta (I used mini penne)
2 cups baby or chopped spinach or chopped kale
1 Tbsp. butter (this is not optional if you want an authentic soup with a creamy texture)
2 Tbsp. freshly grated parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste
1. Heat oil in a large dutch oven or soup pot over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until pale golden. Add carrot and celery and stir well. Add the pork, turning to brown on all sides, and cook about 8 more minutes.
2. Add the tomatoes with their juice and scrape up browned bits from the bottom of the pan. Simmer gently for 10 minutes.
3. Add the beans and stir well. Simmer for 4-5 minutes, then add the stock. Cover pot and bring to a gentle boil. Reduce heat to a strong simmer and stir. Cook partially covered until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, adding a little water as needed.
4. With a potato masher, mash about half the beans in the pot, leaving the other half whole. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pull pork from the pot and shred with a fork. Discard bones and return shredded meat to the soup.
5. Add about 2 cups of water (as much as needed to thin it out to a slightly thinner consistency than you’d like to serve it), and bring to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente. Add additional warm water if needed. When pasta has 1-2 minutes left, add greens and stir to wilt. Stir in butter and cheese vigorously and then remove from heat. Check seasoning.
6. Ladle into soup bowls and let cool 5 minutes before serving – serve warm rather than piping hot.
Serve with toasted garlic bread!