"If the stars make you drool just like pasta fazool, that's amore," Dean Martin sang over the loudspeakers. Well, actually, it was just a recording that was being belted out over the Holy Rosary Italian Festival in downtown Indianapolis several summers ago. As soon as the opening notes sounded, an "Aaahhhhhh!" of pleasure went up from the crowd and we all sang along.
In the case of this recipe, it is love indeed. Because this is just the best soup. So hearty, so peasanty, so hot and nourishing and CHEAP TO PREPARE. And, well, easy. Easy is good. It's always good when something is delicious and simple and good for you too, so I think the soup kettle will definitely be simmering on the stove's back burner this winter, sending forth the pleasant aroma of nonna's cucina through the house, even though neither my husband nor I have a single solitary drop of Italian blood in us.
Pasta e faglioli, which obtained its Yankee pronunciation from the non-Italians of New York City (a little something I learned from the internet) and a simple translation is "pasta and beans." Authentic pasta e faglioli is made with chicken broth and cannellini beans, but you know how these things go: some authentic recipes use pancetta (an Italian type of bacon) and others use a tomato base, such as marinara sauce and I think your final result will probably depend on how much you like tomato-based soups and bacon. I am not, by the way, claiming this recipe, which is my own, to be authentic Italian anything. This is my version and I love it, but I can't pretend it was handed down in my family or anything because like I said above, no Italian blood here.
Serve this soup with a good, strong bread because there is broth that demands to be mopped out of the bowl.
PASTA E FAGLIOLI
1 can tomato juice
3 cups beef OR chicken broth (I prefer beef, but you do what you want)
3 carrots, scraped and cut into hearty chunks
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium to large zucchini, cut in chunks
2 cans of beans, cannellini if you're feeling it, but kidney beans will do if that's what you have available, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups ditalini
1 tablespoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 teaspoon basil
crushed red pepper to taste (I usually add about 1/4 teaspoon)
Parmesan cheese for dressing the soup bowls
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil ("twice around the pan," as Rachael Ray says)
In a soup pot, cook the onion and garlic in the olive oil until the onion is translucent. Add the tomato juice, broth, carrots, celery, zucchini, beans and herbs. Bring to a boil and then lower heat until the soup is just simmering; cook until carrots can be pierced with a fork. Add the ditalini; turn up the heat and cook for seven minutes.
Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish the top with a nice little pile of grated Parmesan cheese. Stir before eating. Serve with thick slices of garlic toast.
Here's Dean singing that song. He looks kind of lost without a cigarette or a martini, doesn't he?
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