The traditional version of this is just as it translates – Pasta and Beans. I did my usual procedure of covering the kitchen table with all my Italian cookbooks, opened to the Pasta e Fagioli recipes or anything remotely close. I took the bits and flavors of each recipe I liked best. So, thank you’s go to: Lidia and your Italian-American Kittchen , Andrew Carmellini and your Urban Italian cookbook, and A-16 and Nate Appleman for all of your inspiration. This is a true rustic Italian meal in a bowl. The aroma alone is enough to make you think you can speak Italian. The garlic, pancetta, and onions, all getting happy together in the saucepan...heaven!
The one thing I did do was to cook the pasta separately, and only added it on a per portion basis. This way, the pasta didn’t soak up all the liquid and turn into a mushy mess. When I re-heated a huge bowl for myself, again, I added the pasta last, just to warm it through then sprinkled (okay, more like piled) some Parmesan cheese on top, sliced two huge pieces of ciabatta bread and tucked in. With the weather getting colder (sort of) and football season in full-swing...this is a perfect dish for hungry fans. It also gets better a few days on.
4-5 sprigs fresh thyme
2-3 bay leaves
4-5 sprigs fresh oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
4oz diced pancetta
2 hot Italian sausages, casings removed and crumbled
1 medium onion, finely chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
2 ribs of celery, finely chopped
1 large carrot, finely chopped
½ - 1 teaspoons red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken broth
1 19oz can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
2-3 leaves – depending on size Swiss chard, finely chopped
8oz cooked orecchiette, ditalini or elbow macaroni
Grated Parmesan cheese to serve
Make a bouquet garni by wrapping the thyme, bay and oregano in cheesecloth then tie with kitchen twine. Set aside.
Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat, add pancetta and sausage, cook until both begin to brown. Break up any large pieces of sausage with the back of a spoon. Add garlic, carrots, onions, and celery. Saute until the onions begin to soften. Pour in white wine and add bouquet garni. Simmer until the wine is reduced by half. Add beans and chicken broth, bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes, add Swiss chard in the last 10 minutes of cooking. Serve in large bowl, sprinkled/piled with cheese and crusty ciabatta on the side.
It’s All Delicious Notes: There were so many variations on this dish. Some with sausage, some without, some called for pureeing half the liquid and beans, others added tomato paste to the soup. I have to thank my cousin Marcie for the Pasta Fagoli idea. I hope this lives up to your expectations Marcie and you and Les enjoy this as much as I did.