Sunday, January 27, 2008

Inspired by my Grandmom - Pasta e Fagioli

Both of my grandmothers were great cooks, and they both specialized in things from their home countries. One of these days I have to try some of the Polish cooking my dad's mom was famous for. Today I decided to try something my mom's mom always made - pasta e fagioli.

My grandmom passed away over 20 years ago, but when I think back to her food, I can still remember exactly how it smelled and tasted. Unfortunately I didn't have a recipe for her pasta e fagioli, but I read through a bunch of recipes online and tried to picture their texture, taste, and smell. I finally decided that
this recipe by Giada seemed the closest to how I remember my grandmom's. Changes I made are noted below in italics.


  • Fresh herbs: 4 sprigs fresh thyme; 1 large sprig fresh rosemary; 1 bay leaf

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 3 ounces pancetta, chopped (I used 3 slices of bacon, chopped)
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic
  • 5 3/4 cups low-sodium chicken broth (I only had regular chicken broth and at first I thought it would be too salty, but it was fine)
  • 2 (14.5-ounce) cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 3/4 cup elbow macaroni (I used ditalini)
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch red pepper flakes, optional (I didn't use this)
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil (I didn't use this)


  • Wrap the thyme, rosemary, and bay leaf in a piece of cheesecloth and secure closed with kitchen twine.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon olive oil and butter in a heavy large saucepan over medium heat.
  • Add the onion, pancetta (bacon), and garlic and saute until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes.
  • Add the broth, beans, and sachet of herbs.
  • Cover and bring to a boil over high heat, then decrease the heat to medium and simmer until the vegetables are very tender, about 10 minutes.
  • Discard the sachet.
  • Puree 1 cup of the bean mixture in a blender until smooth (I used my handheld immersion blender and pureed most of the soup).
  • Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the macaroni and boil with the lid on until it is tender but still firm to the bite, about 8 minutes. Return the puree to the remaining soup in the saucepan and stir well (I cooked the pasta separately and then added it after I pureed the soup. I don't like cooking pastas IN soups as it soaks up too much of the broth).
  • Season the soup with ground black pepper and red pepper flakes.
  • Top with some Parmesan and drizzle with olive oil (it didn't need the olive oil).

As this soup was cooking, my house started to smell like my grandmom's house. And then I tasted it - wow! It tasted so close to the soup she made.

My parents both enjoyed the soup and said it was very similar to how my grandmom made it. I learned that when my grandmom made it she would use a ham butt or ham bone, water instead of broth, and she didn't use all of the fresh herbs. I think this recipe was a great "quick and easy" version of some good, old-world cooking.

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1 comment:

  1. i've been meaning to make this giada recipe... glad to hear that it's good!