Pasta e Fagioli
"The Four Seasons of Pasta"
Although pasta e fagioli (“pasta and beans”) is a classic Italian soup, there are as many variations as there are Italian cooks. Sara Jenkins distinguished the version she served at her Italian Luncheon at the Beard House by puréeing most of the beans and flavoring the almost-finished soup with a fragrant condimento—a sauté of garlic, fresh herbs, and tomato added at the end. Using a fine, estate-bottled extra virgin olive oil from Tuscany makes all the difference.
- 2 cups dry cannellini beans
- 5 cloves garlic
- 2 sprigs fresh sage
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1/4 cup Tuscan extra virgin olive oil
- 1 tablespoon tomato paste
- 3/4 cups chicken stock or water, or as needed
- 1/4 cup puréed tomato sauce
- 1 cup small, dry pasta (such as latini macheroncini or ditalini)
- 2 teaspoons salt, or to taste
- 15 grinds black pepper, or to taste
- Additional extra virgin olive oil for garnish
Rinse and drain the dry beans and place in a large bowl, covered with at least 2 inches of water. Add 3 cloves of garlic and 1 sprig of sage, and allow to soak overnight. If you notice that the water level has fallen below the beans, add more to keep them covered.
The next day, pour the beans, with the water, sage, and garlic, into a large pot and set over low heat. The beans should be covered with at least 1 inch of water. Allow the beans to simmer until very soft, about 1 hour and 10 minutes. Do not allow the water to boil vigorously, and skim off any scum that rises to the surface.
Once tender, about three-quarters of the beans through a food mill fitted with a fine disk. Set aside. Meanwhile, finely mince the remaining two cloves of garlic, the remaining sprig of sage, and the rosemary. Heat the olive oil in the bottom of a large pot. Add the minced garlic and herbs and fry gently until slightly golden. Add the tomato paste and 1/4 cup of stock or water. Allow this mixture to cook down to thicken. Add the whole beans, the puréed beans, and the puréed tomato sauce. Stir to mix. Turn down the heat to a simmer. Adjust the consistency with more stock or water as desired. You can refrigerate the soup at this point.
When you are ready to serve, bring a pot of salted water to a boil and cook the pasta halfway, about 5 to 7 minutes. Meanwhile, gently reheat the soup, adding stock, if necessary, to thin. Drain the pasta and add to the soup to finish cooking. Season the soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Serve immediately with a drizzle of Tuscan olive oil.