Saturday, December 26, 2015

Pasta e Fagioli

     Pasta e Fagioli!
     Pasta Fagioli is delicious, hearty and full of flavor!  Italian Pasta Fagioli recipes can vary from one household to the next and there are many regional interpretations.  This Italian specialty can be served as a soup or a complete entrée.  There are vegetarian versions and some recipes feature Italian pork products.  Ditali Pasta is most often used to make Pasta Fagioli, but the pasta shape is open to interpretation too.
     Overall, Pasta Fagioli reflects upon simple peasant style food.  Depending on the family or chef, Pasta Fagioli can inspire sentimental memories of poor economic times or it can elegantly express a healthy peasant style harvest season meal.  The ingredients in a Pasta Fagioli recipe usually reflect upon family traditions.
     I learned today's Pasta Fagioli recipe variation while apprenticing with a great Sicilian Chef in a New York Italian style fine dining restaurant.  Sicilian chefs always seem to go over the top of the scale when impressing guests with flavor and the style of his Pasta Fagioli certainly accomplished this task.  The Sicilian chef stated that to achieve peak flavors, Pasta Fagioli should always cooked to order.  His choice of pasta was Fettuccine and it creates an interesting visual effect.
     By the way, the word "Fagioli" is pronounced as "FAH-Zooo" in America.  The chef died laughing when I pronounced Fagioli the first time as "FAGGY-O-LEE!"  I was still a very green apprentice back in those days.
     Pasta Fagioli:
     This recipe yields one large bowl of zuppa!  
     This style of Pasta Fagioli is always cooked to order and it is never prepared ahead of time.
     To make 2 or more portions, an extra wide soup pot is the best choice.
     Step 1:  Cook 1 small portion of fettuccine in boiling water, till it becomes al dente.
     Cool the pasta under cold running water.
     Drain the water off of the pasta.
     Set the pasta aside.
     Step 2:  Heat a wide sauté pan over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil.
     Add 1 1/2 tablespoons of imported Italian Pancetta that is cut into small 3/16" thick strips.
     Sauté till the pancetta starts to lightly brown.
     Step 3:  Add 2 cloves of chopped garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of small chopped onion.
     Sauté till the onions turn clear in color.
     Step 4:  Add 2 large escarole leaves that are sliced into wide ribbons.
     Add 2 paper thin slices of imported Italian Prosciutto that are cut into 3/8" wide ribbons.
     Sauté till the escarole wilts.
     Step 5:  Add 3 tablespoons of imported Italian canned crushed plum tomato.
     Add 8 to 10 whole Italian Parsley leaves.
     Add 2 thin sliced fresh sage leaves.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 small pinch of crushed red pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add sea salt and black pepper to taste.
     Briefly sauté for a few seconds, till the herbs become aromatic.
     Step 6:  Add 3 cups of chicken broth.
     Add 1 cup of rinsed cooked cannellini beans or rinsed canned cannellini beans.  (Cannellini are white kidney beans.)
     Step 7:  Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Rapidly simmer and reduce the soup, till the broth develops a full flavor and the soup reduces to about 3 1/2 cups in volume.
     Step 8:  Add the reserved small portion of al dente cooked fettuccine pasta.
     Step 9:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Gently simmer and reduce till the volume of the soup is about 2 3/4 to 3 cups.  The broth should be very rich and not watery.
     Step 10:  Remove the pan from the heat.
     Immediately pour the soup into a large shallow soup bowl.
     Try to expose some of each of the ingredients on the surface of the soup.
     Serve with finely grated Italian Parmigiana Cheese and sliced Italian bread on the side.
     This is a great tasting Pasta Fagioli.  Escarole adds a very light buttery cabbage flavor.  Pasta Fagioli is a great afternoon soup that is really a full meal! 

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