Saturday, October 15, 2011

Pasta e Fagioli

After New Hampshire I craved salad - big mounts of leafy greens topped with all sorts of delicious things.  Alex craved soup with a bunch of veggies.  Clearly we were on the same page with the veggie cravings but had very different ideas on how to fulfill those cravings.  So this was a soup I came up with in honor of his request.  I guess I can't say that there were a ton of veggies in here - there was kale, carrots and celery.  That should count for something, right?  And I have been wanting a soup with cannellini beans since it started getting cooler so I wanted those to be in the soup as well.  And since Alex is a huge fan of bacon, I threw that in too.  As a side note, I can't claim credit for this recipe entirely.  I stumbled across the base recipe online somewhere and then played with it a bit (but now I can't seem to find it online so I can't give a shout out to the source of the original base recipe).  Then we made ourselves some soup.  Really good soup.  Some might say it was the ideal soup for the winter - filling and satisfying, with lots of different (but complimentary) flavors and textures.  Or at least the ideal soup for those who don't particularly like most chili recipes.  It was nice to have bites composed of different ingredients that all worked together so well.  I liked the subtle bacon flavor (as well as the texture of the crunchy bacon in the soup) and the creamy, starchy quality of the beans contrasted with the toothsome quality of the al dente orecchiette pasta.  I also really liked the drizzle of evoo on top to give the soup an extra layer of fruity evoo flavor.  It sounds like a really strange thing to add, but if you use nice high-quality evoo it's a delicious addition.  We served the soup with some nice hearty pane pugliese from Sullivan Street Bakery.  I figured some nice crusty bread, toasted and drizzled with more of that evoo, would be the perfect accompaniment to this soup.  If you wanted to, this batch of soup could easily serve a family of four for dinner.  Throw in a small salad and some toasted bread and you have yourself a meal.  For just Alex and I a salad seemed like overkill so we just did the bread and it was more than enough.  We have enough soup left for lunch later in the weekend sitting in the fridge.  I love fall - such perfect soup weather!

Recipe after the jump!

Pasta e Fagioli

4 slices high-quality bacon, cut in half lengthwise and then into 1/4-inch pieces
1 tbsp evoo, plus additional evoo for serving
1 medium yellow onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 medium carrot, peeled and finely chopped
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped
1/2 lb cannellini beans, soaked for 3-4 hours and drained
14 oz crushed San Marzano tomatoes
salt and freshly ground pepper
1 cup orecchiette (or other dried pasta, perhaps some small shells)
3 cups (packed) kale, thick stems removed, roughly chopped
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, for serving

Heat a large soup pot over medium heat. Saute the bacon until the fat is rendered and the bacon is beginning to browned and crispy, about 7-8 minutes. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on a paper towel. Pour off all but 2 tablespoons of the rendered bacon fat. Add 1 tablespoon of evoo. Return to medium heat and add the onion, celery, garlic, and carrot. Saute until vegetables have softened and become fragrant, about 8-10 minutes. Add the broth, water, oregano and beans. Stir to combine. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to low, and simmer partially covered until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 hours. Add the tomatoes. Stir to combine. Season the beans with s&p to taste. Add the kale and the pasta, raise the heat to medium-high, and cook until the pasta is al dente, adding additional water, if necessary.  Return the bacon to the pot.

Remove from heat. Taste, and adjust the seasonings. Let sit 10 minutes to allow the flavors to blend. Ladle into bowls and sprinkle with Parmesan and drizzle with evoo.  Serve soup with toasted bread.

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