Soup weather? Sort of.
The calendar says it’s fall… or autumn, if you wish. In north Texas, it’s the crazy season of “what season will we have today? Summer? Fall? Spring?” It’s also known as rainy season part 2. It’s the season where the trees don’t know whether to bud out or drop a leaf. Sometimes they’re doing both at the same time. Regardless, we have some real chilly fall days thrown in to remind us north Texas can actually get quite chilly if not darn right cold! What better for those chilly days than to warm the house with good cookin’!
Every now and then the same recipes go ’round social media. All your friends share the same one until you’ve seen it so many times you swear you can recite the recipe by heart. One recipe I see time and again is the supposed famous “authentic” Italian chain restaurant recipe for Pasta e Fagioli… pronounced Pa-sta Fa-zool, emphasis on the first syllable of each word. Don’t forget your best Italian accent. For the record, Pasta e Fagioli is pasta and beans. That’s it. Period.
Whenever I see this recipe shared, I cringe. The photo accompanying the recipe is of a bowl of red colored soup. The recipe always contains tomato sauce and meat. It looks more like chili mac than Pasta e Fagioli. I have on several occasions commented on friends’ post of the recipe that it’s meatless & not in a red sauce. On more than one occasion I have been asked for the recipe. Finally, I thought about it.
Mom’s family is from the heart of Italy in America: Providence, Rhode Island. Her dad immigrated to the United States in 1914 from Forio d’Ischia, a tiny island off the coast of Naples, Italy. Her French mom was born in Rhode Island but her heritage lies in Rhode Island on her dad’s side and Quebec, Canada on her mom’s side.
When my grandparents married, my French grandma had to learn to speak Italian, as well as cook it. She learned from her mother-in-law, Filomena Maria Giuseppina d’Abundo. One of the Italian dishes she learned was Pasta e Fagioli. Unfortunately, I did not get the recipe from my grandma before she passed away in 1999 at the age of 90 from breast cancer. I did, however, call my Uncle Vito, who was just as good a cook as my grandma, for the recipe. He was more than happy to pass it down to another generation. The only problem was my Italian family cooks without measuring utensils; so, my recipe read as a list of ingredients. I asked my uncle how much of this and that. He said, “you know, to taste. You know how to make a sauce.”
I thought, “oh, yeah. Right. Of course!”
First, two things. One. I have never seen a red Pasta e Fagioli. Two. I have never seen Pasta e Fagioli with meat in it. It’s usually a Lenten dish, meaning it’s usually eaten on Fridays in Lent, which means no meat. That being said, my family alternates between two versions. One version using water as the base (the Lenten version) and one version using chicken broth. It’s the same recipe just alternating between the two liquids.
Personally, I like it with the chicken broth, but for obvious reasons, sometimes you can’t have a chicken base if you use it for a Friday meal during Lent. As with any family recipe, each cook will make it theirs. I use Mrs. Dash (r) Table Blend seasonings and the 3 Pepper and onion blend for ease and to reduce the sodium.
Second, the recipe. What y’all have been waiting for…
Pasta e Fagioli
2 cans cannellini beans, drained
1 pkg 12oz frozen 3 pepper onion blend*
2 stalks celery (optional)
1/2 tsp minced garlic
6 cups chicken broth (low sodium)** or water
1/2 tbsp lite salt
1 tbsp parsley
1 tsp basil
1 tsp oregano
1 tsp Mrs Dash table blend
1/2 tsp thyme
1/4 tsp pepper
8 oz Ditilini pasta
1. Sauté pepper onion blend, beans & garlic in olive oil.
2. Add chicken broth or water.
3. Add seasonings.
4. Simmer 1-2 hours to blend flavors.
5. Cook ditilini to package directions for firm (about 8 minutes).
6. Add ditilini to soup.
7. Let stand 10-15 minutes for more flavor blending.
8. Pour into soup bowls & enjoy with buttered Italian bread or garlic bread.
(Note: the longer the Ditilini sits in the soup the less liquid will be in the soup, as it will absorb.)
* The frozen pepper onion blend can be substituted for fresh. 1 small onion, diced. Diced peppers; your choice of color and amount to your liking.
** chicken broth is equivalent to 1-1/2 (32 oz) cartons or 3 (14 oz) cans
Mangia! Buon appetito!