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Thursday, March 10, 2011

Who doesn't love alphabet pasta?

   Ooooh delicious bowl of soup.I mean really delicious. And do ya see the melted Parmesan sprinkled on top?!?!?!  This soup was wonderful savory,tomatoy and it was full of vitamins and minerals and protein.
Perfect combo if you ask me.
What soup is this? Pasta e Fagioli.
It's a recipe from my pal Mark Bittman.
Ok, so we're not pals but I go to his cookbook ,How To Cook Everything  all the time. It's one of my Top 5 favorites cookbooks of all time.I know that's a lofty statement,BUT! I haven't made one recipe out of it that I didn't like.
Not a single,solitary one.
Ok so I am realistic 99% of the time and I know that one recipe might not soar one day,but until that day I will eat soup.
This soup,Pasta e Fagioli.
Hope I made ya proud Mark:
Here are the bulk of the ingredients:olive oil,chopped onion,minced garlic,fresh rosemary,a variety of canned beans,canned diced tomatoes and (drum roll please) homemade vegetable stock !!!! Yep that's the vegetable stock I mentioned a few weeks back and this soup was the perfect stage for it to stand on. What a performance.
So heat up the olive oil over medium heat and add the onions and half the garlic.I added some salt,pepper and for fun some red pepper flakes.("It too 'picy MerMer,it too 'picy." As my godson used to say,he's 8 now.He sure was cute.) Ok so soften the onions and garlic in the olive oil for about 5 minutes.Then...
Add the fresh rosemary,beans,and tomatoes. Cook those for a bit,stirring and mashing the beans with the back of your spoon.Do this until the mixture is warm and the tomatoes begin to break down. Break. It. Down.
"Iceberg right ahead!" You know the movie Titanic. The one with ol' Leonardo Dicaprio and Kate Winslet. The whole ship sinking business and "... never let go Jack!" Yeah that movie. Well the line about the iceberg rang real true once I added the vegetable stock. See I made up tons of stock and then froze it in 4-cup batches.I didn't bother to thaw it before I put it in the pot,sooooo that means that the soup might take a little longer to cook. Not too much longer,about an extra 5 minutes or so,just so the frozen stock has time to thaw.
The soup is called Pasta e Fagioli or Pasta and Bean Soup. Look what kind of pasta I found at the grocery!!! 
ALPHABET PASTA! As you have figured out,it doesn't take much to amuse me,but when I saw this pasta I jumped up and down. Not too high (as other people were in the store) but just enough to remind me how excited I got about this pasta,as a child. I thought this pasta shape was a thing of my past. 
Nope. I used it in this pasta and bean soup. Joy! 
 So after the stock iceberg has melted and the soup has simmered for 10 minutes add the pasta in and simmer for another 10 minutes until the pasta is nearly tender. Add in some parsley,cook some more and now we're ready to serve.
 I originally made this soup for a good friend of mine. She and her boyfriend were coming to my husband's birthday dinner. The main menu item that night at dinner was steak,manly kind of steak. And she's a vegetarian. Well goodness,lets see here...I am not eating steak (only bought 4 for my husband and his three friends) and she doesn't eat meat. What ta do,what ta do...
Lets make a delicious bowl of soup for both of us.Pasta e Fagioli was the best soup ever.It made our night.My friend and I both kept commenting on how rich the soup was and "gosh,this sure is tasty." 
I told her it was the fresh rosemary.
Well yes I'm sure the fresh rosemary made a difference,but about 24 hours later a thought came to me "... maybe it was the homemade stock." Homemade vegetable stock or really great boxed stock,makes this soup,it made my night. Enjoy.
Pasta and Bean Soup (Pasta e Fagioli)
adapted from Mark Bittman
How To Cook Everything,pg 66
Ingredients:
5 TBL extra-virgin olive oil
1 large onion,chopped
2 tsp minced garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary (or 1 tsp dried rosemary)
3 cups drained,cooked kidney,cannellini,borlotti or other beans or a mixture
2 cups cored,peeled,seeded and diced tomatoes (canned are fine;include their juices)
6-8 cups chicken,beef or vegetable stock,or water,warmed
salt and ground black pepper to taste
1/2 lb tubettini or other small pasta (or larger broken into pieces)
1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Directions:
1. Place 4 TBL of olive oil in a large,heavy-bottomed deep saucepan or casserole, turn the heat to medium.A minute later add the onion and half the garlic;cook until the onion softens,stirring occasionally,about 5 minutes.
2. Add the rosemary,beans,and tomatoes, and cook,stirring and mashing the tomatoes with your spoon,until the mixture is warmed and the tomatoes have broken down,about 10 minutes.
3. Add 6 cups of stock or water and a good amount of salt and pepper. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook simmer for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. (you can prepare the soup in advance up to this stage. Cover and refrigerate for up to 2 days and reheat before proceeding.)
4. Add the pasta and remaining stock. Simmer until the pasta is nearly tender,10 minutes or so. Add half the parsley and the remaining garlic and cook another 5 minutes,until the pasta is well done but not mushy.
5. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and drizzle the remaining olive oil. Serve,passing the cheese at the table.

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