This is probably the best soup I've ever made. Also known as Pasta e Fagioli, this rich, hearty soup is great to tuck into on a cold, winter night. And we have a few in the forecast.
I landed on this recipe from Mark Bittman's cookbook "How to Cook Everything," which I highly recommend. It's full of easy recipes for pretty much .... well ... anything.
I have a half dozen of nearly full, opened bags of dried beans in my cupboard that I'm working to find recipes for. So, on this day, I was looking for something to get rid of at least one of them. I will definitely be making this again.
Bittman recommends throwing in chunks of Parmesan cheese rind into the pot to add flavor and depth to the soup. They turn into gooey, delicious bits of melted cheese. So yummy.
Pasta and Bean Soup from Mark Bittman
Makes four to six servings
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
1 carrot, diced
1 celery stalk, diced
1/2 cup chopped prosciutto or other ham. This ingredient is optional. I had five or six strips of bacon in the refrigerator so threw it in.
1 cup hard vegetables such as potatoes, winter squash or turnips. I used potatoes
6 cups chicken, vegetable or beef stock
1 cup canned diced tomato with the juices
1 cup soft vegetables such as green beans, summer squash, zucchini or dark, leafy greens like kale or collards. (I used green beans and some spinach I had on hand).
2 cups cooked beans, such as kidney, white, cannellini or a mixture
1/2 cup to 1 cup small pasta (or large pasta broken into smaller bits). I used one cup gemelli pasta.
1/2 cup chopped, fresh parsley leaves (I didn't have any, so left this out).
Put 3 tablespoons of oil into a large, deep pot over medium heat. When hot, add the onion, carrot and celery. Cook until the onion softens. Add the ham or bacon if you're using it and cook for another three minutes.
Add the hard vegetables and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook, stirring, for a minute or two, then add the stock and the tomato. Bring to a boil. Lower the heat so the mixture bubbles gently. If you have some Parmesan lying around, this is the time to cut the rind into small pieces and throw it into the pot. Cook until the veggies are pretty soft and the tomato is broken up. That takes about 15 minutes. Stir every once in a while.
Add the soft veggies and cooked beans and parsley and simmer the mixture. This is when you add in the pasta. Cook the vegetables until they are all tender - about 15 minutes.
Add in one tablespoon of olive oil and throw in a teaspoon of minced garlic to the pot about five minutes before serving. Grate Parmesan cheese into each bowl.
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