Let’s talk about everybody’s favorite soup: Pasta Fagioli! You will find it in restaurants and pizzerias around the world. But not everyone makes it the same way. Everyone has his own recipe—or the one that he got from his grandma. But it’s still Pasta Fagioli, a traditional dish in Palermo.
The Italians—including my family and myself—consume a vast amount of this soup. Occasionally, you may not find it to your liking, though, especially if the chef doesn’t make it authentically. During a trip to Texas not long ago, I ordered Pasta Fagioli in a restaurant, but, when it was delivered to my table, something did not look right. It was bubbling. I knew it had come out of the microwave oven. I asked for the manager, and my suspicions were correct. He admitted the soup had come from a can. I asked him why, and he said, “I’m not selling enough.” My reply was, “What do you expect out of a can?”
That’s not home-cooked Pasta Fagioli, and even the non-connoisseur won’t be fooled. Have a go at making the real thing, and you’ll have a winner!
Three 5-oz. cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
⅓ c. extra-virgin olive oil, divided, plus some extra
1 medium onion, diced
1 clove garlic, minced
4 thin slices pancetta, chopped
1 tsp. parsley, chopped
1 tsp. oregano, chopped
4 cups beef stock
⅔ c. plum tomatoes, diced (skinless)
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
½ tsp. salt
½ tsp. fresh ground pepper
¾ lb. ditalini
1 tsp. Romano cheese to garnish
Place 2 cans of cannellini beans in a food processor and puree until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and add the third can of beans. Put aside. In a deep skillet or pan, warm 3 tbsp. of olive oil on medium heat. Add onion and sauté until golden, about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, boil water for the ditalini. Cook pasta until al dente. Before draining the pasta, reserve a cup or two of the water (to be added to the mixture if it gets too thick).
In the deep skillet, add garlic, pancetta, parsley and oregano, and sauté for another 4 minutes. Add the remaining 3 tbsp. of olive oil, beef stock, tomatoes and the bean mixture and bring to a boil. Add red pepper flakes and cooked pasta, then season with salt and pepper. Serve in bowls and add some olive oil and Romano cheese. Finish with ground pepper. Mangia!