We depend on filling, frugal dishes for our weeknight meals. It helps if they're also simple to make and delicious! One of our favorite stand-by dishes, and one for which we always have the ingredients on hand, is Pasta e Fagioli. Typically, this soupy pasta dish is made in a skillet, but I've found that most savory foods can benefit from a sprinkling of bread crumbs and cheese and a hiatus in a hot oven.
Pasta e Fagioli can be incredibly frugal, making use of bread crumbs made from stale bread, odds and ends of cheese, or even leftover cooked beans and pasta. If you decide to use dried beans in this recipe, use 1 cup, which is roughly equivalent to two 15 1/2 ounce cans of beans. If you have leftover cooked dried beans, use 1 1/2 cups.
We used fresh mozzarella for our version of this dish, but I imagine a multitude of other cheeses would be similarly delicious (and similarly inauthentic!). Or you could go a bit more spartan and combine the bread crumbs with grated Parmesan or Romano. In either case, if you have a Parmesan rind knocking around in your refrigerator, this is the time to use it--toss it in with the beans and stock and let it work its magic.
- Serves 6 to 8
celery stalk, diced
1 1/2 cups
ditalini or elbow macaroni
cloves garlic, minced
15 1/2-ounce cans cannellini, Great Northern, or Navy beans, drained and rinsed
chicken or vegetable stock or broth
1 1/2 cups
canned crushed tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
fresh bread crumbs
cheese, grated or, if using fresh mozzarella, cut into thin rounds
- Preheat the oven to 400?F.
- Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium heat. When hot and beginning to shimmer, add the onion, carrot, and celery. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables are translucent and tender, about 8 to 12 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- While the vegetables are cooking, bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil. Add the pasta and cook according to package instructions, but undercooking by 2 minutes (For instance, the box of ditalini I used gave a 10-11 minute cooking time. I cooked the pasta for 8 minutes.). Drain and rinse the pasta well.
- Add the beans, stock or broth, and tomatoes to the vegetables. Increase the heat to high and boil until the liquid is reduced by about a third. No need to be exact here, but you do want to reduce the liquid a bit. Add the cooked, drained pasta and salt and pepper to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in the parsley.
- Pour the mixture into a 3-quart baking dish. Scatter the cheese over the top, followed by the bread crumbs. Bake until the bread crumbs are nicely browned and the cheese is melted, about 25 minutes. If you want more browning action, run the pan under the broiler for a few minutes. Serve warm, with more chopped parsley to garnish.