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White Bean and Tiny Pasta Soup

whitebeans

You have a choice: You can pay a lot of money for one bowl of pasta e fagioli in a fancy restaurant, or for the same amount of money you can stay at home, hang out with your kids, and make a big pot of your own fancy soup. Hey, why not double up on the recipe and give some to your neighbors? Even better, invite them and their kids over for dinner.

YOU NEED

8 ounces tiny pasta, like orzo, tiny shells, or small macaroni
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped (optional)
1 medium onion, chopped
3 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and chopped
3 15-ounce cans cannellini or great northern beans, drained (or 5 cups home-cooked beans)
6­ cups vegetable or chicken broth
1 cup diced tomatoes, canned or fresh
Rind of a piece of Parmesan cheese (optional, but very tasty)
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Salt and pepper to taste
Optional Garnishes
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup grated Parmigiano Regg­iano cheese
Slices of rustic bread, brushed with olive oil and toasted
Chopped parsley ­

TO MAKE 6-8 SERVINGS

In a large pot, cook the pasta according to the package directions. Drain and set aside.

Heat up your soup pot and drizzle in enough olive oil to cover the bottom. Sauté the pancetta with the onion until golden. Add the garlic, celery, and carrots and sauté until fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

Add the remaining ingredients and simmer under a lid for at least half an hour. (This soup is happy to sit and simmer quietly on your stove for an hour, although you might need to add a little broth.)

Remove the rosemary and Parmesan rind. Puree a cup or two of the soup in your blender. Even easier, stick a hand immersion blender into the soup for a quick moment, just until it thickens a bit.

Fold the cooked pasta into the soup. (If you have little kids, perhaps you should save a bit of pasta and use it as garnish, to assure them that there is something they like in the soup.)

Taste for salt and pepper.

On the rim of each soup bowl, balance a slice of toast, ladle the soup on top, garnish with a drizzle of olive oil, a few drops of balsamic vinegar, and a shower of Parmesan and parsley.

 

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