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Pasta e Fagiole

This is a huge recipe, makes a bunch. When I make soup I like to make enough to freeze. It doesn’t really take any longer and soup freezes well. This is one of my “freestyle” recipes, eg I never make it QUITE the same way twice. It depends on what I have on hand.

2 15 oz cans cannelini beans, or 1 C dried (cannelini is “white kidney beans”)
2 15 oz cans red kidney beans or 1 C dried
8 c chicken stock
1 c tomato sauce
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
1 large onion coarsely chopped, or to taste
1/2 c chopped or diced carrots
2 to 3 stalks of celery, coarsely chopped
2 dried Bay leaves
1 T dried basil
1 T dried oregano
salt and pepper to taste
1 to 2 T olive oil
2 T minced garlic
2 T white vinegar
1 T sugar
2 T crushed red pepper or to taste
1 lb ditalini or other small pasta

OPTIONAL
1 lb hamburger

If using dried beans:

I’m not sure if red kidney beans and cannelini have the same or different cooking times. To be on the safe side, if you’re using dried beans for both, cook them separately. If I ever find a source of dried cannelini beans locally I’ll figure this out and update this recipe.

Note that any white bean (navy beans, Great Northern beans) can be substituted for the Cannelini if you can’t find them. Navy or Great Northern beans will also probably cost 1/2 or 1/3rd of what the Cannelini beans will cost you, and can easily be found dried. Cooking instructions for those may vary. Check the package for details.

Soak beans overnight in 2 to 3 c water OR

Put 1 c of dried beans in 2 c of water. Bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour off the liquid. We are “de-gassing” the beans, making them more easily digested and less likely to cause people, errrr, intestinal distress. Cover with 2 c of water, bring to a boil again, remove from heat and let sit for one hour.

After an hour or if you soaked overnight, bring beans to a boil again, then turn down to a low simmer for approximately 1 hour. This time will vary. Check the beans at least every 15 minutes, you may need to add water. Keep them covered with water. When they have softened (pick one out and bite it to check), remove from the heat and set aside.

Put your chicken stock in a large 8 qt stock pot (if you are making the full recipe). Bring to a boil. Add the chopped veggies, herbs, sugar, vinegar, and redd pepper flakes. Do a fast simmer for about 10 to 15 minutes. Add the chopped veggies, tomato sauce, and tomatoes, and let simmer on low for a few minutes.

While the stock is simmering, fry up the hamburger if you are using it. Pour off the oil and set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a small frying pan and add the minced garlic – cook for a few minutes over moderate heat. Add to the stock. Add the beans, with cooking liquid. Add the hamburger (if it clumped up you can mash it into little bits with a fork or pastry blender) at this time, if you are using it.

If it doesn’t look tomato-ey enough for you, add some more tomato sauce or diced tomatoes at this time.

Bring all ingredient back to a boil and simmer for another 5 minutes to heat all ingredients through.

IF you are serving immediately, go ahead and add all the ditalini at this time.

If, however, you cooked up the whole batch intending to freeze or store until later, DO NOT add the ditalini at this time. Instead go ahead and package the soup up for freezing or the fridge. Do not add the ditalini until you are ready to serve! If you go ahead and add the ditalini now and then try to save it for later, you will end up with great big soggy ditalini and no soup. The ditalini will soak it all up. So add the ditalini just before serving – it takes 10 to 15 minutes to cook the ditalini, depending on the ditalini.

The entire recipe is intended for 1 lb of ditalini. You’ll probably end up with in the neighborhood of 6 qts of soup. So when you do reheat it preparatory to serving, just add a proportionate amount of ditalini. Roughly 1.5 oz of ditalini per 2 c of soup, if you’re heating it up later for individual servings. It will expand to about double it’s size when it’s cooked.

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