Italians have been bean eaters for thousand of years. Greeks ate lentils. Romans consumed garbanzo beans and black-eyed peas daily. Common beans arrived in Italy from America with Colombo and returned to America with Italian emigrants and their “pasta fazool”.
There are a million versions of “pasta e fagioli”, pasta with beans. The quality of the beans really is important: use beans which are fresh or dried, not canned, to avoid preservatives, fresh herbs and your best extra virgin olive oil. Last but not least, cook the pasta separately so it’s al dente. I use fresh egg pasta which is miles away from the overcooked broken spaghetti of old-time school cafeteria. Try it and you will know what I mean.
- 3 lt (3 quarts) cold water
- 1 medium tomato
- 1 medium whole onion, peeled
- 1 medium carrot, scrubbed
- 1 celery stalk, leaves removed
- 1 sprig of rosemary and a few sage leaves
- 1 finely minced garlic clove
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 60 gr (2 ounces) fresh tagliolini (narrow fettuccine) per person
- 250 gr (8 ounces) borlotti or cannellini beans
Soak beans overnight in cold water, rinse and transfer in a tall saucepan. Add onion, carrot, tomato, celery, herbs and water. Cover and simmer slowly until beans are tender. Season with salt and black pepper.
Puree half of the beans and return to pan. Cover to keep warm. Cook pasta in plenty boiling hot water until al dente. Fresh tagliolini will take no more than one minute.
Meanwhile, saute 1 finely minced garlic clove in a tablespoon olive oil until fragrant. Drain the pasta, toss in the garlic oil and a little pasta water. Ladle beans into bowls, top with the pasta and drizzle with a little more EVO oil.
Variation: mince 1 clove garlic and 30 gr. (one ounce) pancetta or guanciale. Sautee 1 finely minced clove of garlic with 30 g (1 oz) pancetta or guanciale until fragrant and toss with the pasta. Transfer the pasta into the bean soup and serve. For added color, decorate bowls with diced fresh tomatoes, parsley leaves or chives.