I didn’t realize this until recently, but it seems, that just a few short months ago, I was living quite the luxurious life. A life filled with such extravagances as shaving my legs and washing my hair on the same day. Using the restroom at my leisure. Watching a full hour of Gossip Girl or History Channel’s Lost Superpowers of the Bible (don’t ask) without pausing for a certain somebody’s poopie diaper. And oh, the cooking I used to do! There were scones and risottos and things that actually need to be watched while you cook them. Nowadays, my DVR seems to fill up faster than I can watch it, and cooking has been reduced to preparing a box of Stouffer’s frozen lasagna, much to Husband’s pleasure. Sadly, sneaking veggies into his meals moved way down on the priority list, somewhere between daily application of mascara and, well, blogging…
When I received Nigella Lawson’s Nigella Bites cookbook as a gift, I figured it would join the other neglected cookbooks on my kitchen shelves, hidden behind sanitized baby bottles and tubs of Enfamil. Upon leafing through it though, I came upon this recipe for Pasta e Fagioli, a recipe I had tried to make on my own before, which had always come out bland and flavorless. With the short list of ingredients and seemingly forgiving instructions, I dusted off my apron, put my boobs back in my bra, and gave it a go.
Pasta e Fagioli
adapted from Nigella Lawson
serves 6 – 8
3 cups dried pinto beans (Nigella uses cranberry beans)
5 cloves of smashed whole garlic, plus 1 more for grating
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, plus one sprig – needles chopped
1 onion, peeled and quartered
3 tablespoons tomato paste (Nigella uses just 1)
3 tablespoons olive oil
7 ounces dried ditalini pasta
1 large carrot, diced (Nigella doesn’t use carrot)
salt to taste
olive oil for drizzling
piece of cheesecloth and string (Nigella uses a nylon knee-high)
Step 1: Soak the beans overnight in a large pot or bowl, completely covered by cold water. Drain the beans, and pour them into your soup pot, along with the smashed garlic cloves. Step 2: Use the cheesecloth and string to tie up the rosemary sprigs and onion, and add to the pot. Step 3: Cover “generously” with cold water, cover tightly, and set to boil (Note: this is one of the reasons people often complain about Nigella’s recipes, she isn’t always precise with amounts) Step 4: Once the pot has begun to boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until beans are tender. At that point, but not earlier, add salt. Step 5: Throw out the cheesecloth and use an immersion blender to blend the soup to your desired consistency. Step 6: Add the 3 tablespoons of oil to a small saucepan, and use a microplane grater to grate the last piece of garlic into the pan. Cook over low heat until fragrant, and then add the chopped rosemary and tomato paste. Cook for a minute, and then add pan’s contents to the soup pot. Step 7: Bring the soup back to a boil, and add the pasta and carrot, keeping the temperature up high until the pasta is cooked through. Step 8: Ladle into bowls, drizzle with oil, and serve.
So, I have to let you in on why this soup is so extra-delicious. Its the addition of the pan-sauce of tomato paste, garlic and rosemary, (I believe its a soffritto). Its what gives the soup layers of flavor, and not just a bland, one-note flavor that soups can often have. I plan to try some variation of it in every soup I make from now on.
I am pretty happy with the health factor of the dish, especially because it takes no effort whatsoever to get my Husband to eat it. I added the carrot because I thought it would go well with the soup, but a traditional Pasta e Fagioli wouldn’t have it. Considering the fiber-rich beans, carrot, and loads of fresh garlic, on our official Veggie Fake-Out Broccoli Head Rating Scale, I give this recipe four heads of broccoli.
And now for your moment of cuteness…