Jenny is a person who takes time to adjust. New cities never suit her at first; she sees lack of fresh rosemary and poor sentence structure in road signage before she sees new shades of sunsets or fine running paths. She has never liked a new job, at least not the first year. While the rest of her family giggles and ooohs over a new puppy, she imagines chewed chair legs and potty training surprises left behind a couch.
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Too often than she cares to admit, she stands apart from new people, too, eyes narrowed, waiting for a reason to warm up. These are all bad habits, almost as bad as referring to oneself in the third person, which will stop right here.
Be all of that as it may, one thing I easily and often fall for is a new dish. Sometimes because it provides an interesting marriage of flavors I have never considered, or such incredible ease that I feel liberated by it. But Pasta e Fagioli is just deeply pleasant, completely familiar, and a great weeknight option for those rooting around their larder wondering what the heck to do.
My guess is that everyone who cooks pasta e fagioli has a recipe they favor, and probably does not like it messed with. Some of you may recall when I had the temerity to write about Pasta Carbonara with Fresh Green Beans, which set off a foodie controversy only slightly less contentious than the START treaty Senate debate. But this is just a version of some pasta soup you have made at some point and forgotten about, so here it is, a reminder of gentle goodness.
The most important point here is that you have most of these ingredients lying around, although I don’t know many people who randomly stock celery, so you may need to pick some things up.
Here are my variations: I had turkey stock frozen from Thanksgiving, so that went in instead of chicken. God has not blessed me with a store that carries ditalini, so I used conchigliette. You knock yourself out with whatever small noodle you can find.
From here, QueenOfGreen lays it out quite simply. Simmer. Stir. Add cheese (lots of it, and black pepper and a shake of red pepper flakes if that is how you like it). Feast indeed.
1 can (16 oz?) cannelini beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16 oz?) whole tomatoes, drained and chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 cup dittalini
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, minced
1. In a heavy saucepan cook bacon over moderate heat, stirring until crisp. Add onion and garlic, stirring until onion is soft and transparent. Add celery. Add broth and simmer, covered, for 5 minutes.
2. In a bowl mash 1/3 of the beans, then stir them into the onion mixture along with the remaining whole beans and tomatoes. Simmer the soup, covered for 15 minutes, or until pasta is al dente. Then remove from heat and let stand, still covered, for 5 minutes.
3. Stir in parsley and top with (lots of!) Parmesan. Feast.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).