PASTA E FAGIOLI (pasta and beans soup)
There are dozens of versions of this soup. In Tuscany, white cannellini beans are used.
150g (8 oz) dry cannellini beans
a small strip of kombu seaweed (optional)
2 cloves garlic
6 leaves sage
2 sticks celery
1 small dried chili pepper
4 tomatoes, skinned and chopped
150g (5 oz) small pasta, e.g. ditalini
Soak the beans overnight in plenty of water. Change the water and add the garlic, sage and seaweed (Tuscan grandmothers would use a pinch of bicarbonate of soda).
Cook the beans (preferably in a terracotta pot) on a low heat for approximately 2 hours, until the beans are tender. Add salt when they are almost done. Any earlier and they'll break up. Chop the celery and carrots very finely. Fry in a large pot on a low flame in olive oil with the chili pepper until tender.
Purée three-quarters of the beans. Add this purée, along with the remaining whole beans and the tomatoes, to the pot.
Cook for 30 minutes, then add the pasta. When the pasta is cooked, serve dressed with excellent olive oil.