Now that the holidays are over, we’re still running around. Whether paying up on our credit cards or returning gifts at department stores, we need to take time to unwind and enjoy some good eats.
From my days in Italy, pasta e fagioli or pasta with beans, has always been comforting during the most stressful times. Since we Italians always have a can of beans and one of tomatoes in our pantries, it takes no time to serve this classic, peasant fare with some robust red wine.
Don’t forget that sprinkle of cheese over your pasta e fagioli. Can a last-minute meal get any better than this?
Prep time: 15 to 20 minutes
Serves: 4 to 6
1/4 cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic
One 15-ounce (or 1-1/2 cups) whole, peeled tomatoes (puréed in a blender)
3/4 teaspoon salt
Dash ground pepper
Dash ground nutmeg (optional)
One 15-ounce can Cannellini or Great Northern beans
1 pound (16 ounces) small pasta shells
5 to 6 fresh basil leaves, for garnish
Grated Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese
1. In a 2 to 3-quart sauce pot, heat the oil.
2. When oil is hot, add the garlic cloves. Stir-fry on medium heat until the cloves are light golden.
3. Add the puréed tomatoes, salt, pepper and nutmeg to the garlic; simmer on medium heat. Stir occasionally and cook for about 15 minutes.
4. Meanwhile, bring a 4-quart sauce pot filled with water to a boil.
5. Stir in the pasta shells into the boiling water. Follow package directions for cooking time.
6. As the pasta cooks for the last 2 to 3 minutes, drain and rinse the beans.
7. Immediately add the rinsed beans to the tomato sauce and warm through.
8. In the meantime, when the pasta has cooked (preferably al dente or crunchy-tender, drain it and reserve 2 cups of the pasta water.
9. Return the cooked and drained pasta to its sauce pot. Add 2 ladles of the sauce and about 1/2 cup of the pasta water.
10. Warm the pasta e fagiolithrough. Adjust sauce level and pasta water, to taste (some people like a more watery soup, while others prefer more tomato sauce).
11. Garnish with basil leaves and serve immediately. Ask guests to add some grated cheese to their individual pasta e fagioli.
Red wine suggestion: Chianti or Aglianico.
Text and Photograph ©2014 Nancy DeLucia Real