What is dirt cheap anymore? Inexpensive or economical and feeds many, I recall a big pot of bean soup going a long way to feed a big family on a skinny budget. Without a doubt I immediately go to "beans" and a big pot of pasta fagioli for my cheap but wonderful dinner for eight. Beans because I heard how cheap they were in the Great Depression.
Today is sausage making day and the soup is on, no time for anything fancy here today. I have to have something ready for the two day process and this is one of my go to recipes.
I would love to say that this is a family recipe and it is, mine, I didn't have the advantage of growing up with my Italian relatives so I don’t know what their recipes are and dad was a sailor you know so we spent little time with relatives. When he cooked, he threw in elements of what he remembered on his plate and in his bowl. He was a good cook; I miss his face and his food! Then again I would love to give credit to my mother and her version I do, a slight nod, for adding cabbage and calling it cabbage and beans to serve 7 of us.
Over the years to create a more expensive version and fancy things up a bit for a company dinner, I added chicken and/or beef broths, still economical because I make my own stocks and broths and freeze. Select greens and garnished with pesto. My notes later in the recipe mention other additions, not necessarily budget friendly.
Great for a casual dinner, serve a fresh loaf of bread and a salad.
Rinse beans, soak overnight and drain. To a very large stock pot add about 3 tablespoons olive oil and briefly sauté the celery, garlic, carrot, onion and ham bone or ham hocks. Break up the canned tomatoes and add to pot with all of the juices from the can. Let it all heat up while you add beans, water (optional broths if using), herbs and bay leaf. Season with a little red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste.
Simmer until beans are tender about 2-3 hours on a medium low to low simmer. Remove bay leaf. Remove bones and pick meat off to add back into the soup. Season to your taste.
Cook and drain tubetti, return to cooking pot, add some of the soup broth to the pasta. At this point you can take half of the beans and puree, but I like the thinner broth and whole beans. First night soup is my favorite; everyone else likes the soup thicker or the next day.
Notes for basic pasta fagioli: Once you have your basic soup ready you can get pretty creative adding in sautéed favorite greens to the simmering soup for several minutes before serving. Tiny meat balls, crispy pancetta, or prosciutto, and sausage are favorite additions for a second soup meal. Keep in mind all additions = more expense. I love freshly grated cheese in my bowl of pasta fagioli. Freeze leftover soup without pasta.
Since it was sausage making day, I left some meat on the pork butt bones and added them to the soup as well, nice bits of tender pork in the soup along with the ham bits.