Pasta e Fagioli {Ditalini with Chickpeas}


We just returned to Umbria after almost two weeks in Corsica, and the weather changed completely while we were gone. When we left, we were enjoying sunny days with temperatures in the eighties and returned to rainy fall days with significantly cooler temperatures. When we experience cool, rainy days, I automatically think of comfort food such as creamy polenta, hearty soups, or pasta dishes such as this pasta and beans dish. Pasta e Fagioli has always been a favorite in my house as it is hearty and oh so satisfying. This dish originated from “Cucina Povera”, or Italian peasant cooking as it is usually a meatless dish that is filling enough to satisfy even the largest appetite. The recipe may vary from region to region depending on available ingredients. The consistency of the dish can also vary, with some being almost soup like (like this version), while others are a much thicker pasta type of dish. If you prefer a thicker texture, increase the pasta to the entire one pound package.

Pasta fagioli is commonly made using cannellini beans or borlotti beans and a small pasta shape such as macaroni or ditalini. The base of the dish usually includes olive oil, garlic, minced onion, and spices, along with stewed tomato or tomato paste. I cook a lot of dried beans in my kitchen, and once cooked I portion them off and freeze them for dishes such as this one. If you do not want to cook the beans yourself, canned beans will work just fine.

To cook dried chickpeas, first soak overnight in a bowl covered in cool water and a teaspoon of baking soda. In the morning, drain the beans and place in a pot. Cover beans with water and discard any beans that float. Cover by 2 to 3 inches with cold water. Place over high heat and bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer, covered, until softened, about 1 1/2 hours. I am preparing to leave Umbria in less than two weeks, so I am trying my best to use up any ingredients in my refrigerator and freezer. I have a wonderful piece of guanciale that I knew would do wonders for the flavor of this dish, so I included it diced small. You could use pancetta in place of the guanciale, or simply leave it out for a vegetarian version. To serve this soup, I like to use a drizzle of seasoned extra virgin olive oil, some cracked black pepper, and a sprinkling of grated Pecorino Romano cheese. To season my oil, I simply heat the oil in a small pan with fresh herbs such as rosemary, thyme, or sage. Let the oil warm gently, and then remove from the heat and let sit ten minutes. Strain the herbs from the oil and use.

Buon Appetito!
Deborah Mele 2015

Pasta e Fagioli {Ditalini with Chickpeas}

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Finely Diced Onion
  • 3/4 Cup Finely Diced Guanciale or Pancetta
  • 3/4 Cup Finely Diced Carrot
  • 1/2 Cup Diced Celery
  • 6 Garlic Cloves, Minced
  • 1/2 Cup Fresh Parsley Leaves, Chopped
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Finely Chopped Fresh Roasemary
  • 1/2 Teaspoon Red Pepper Flakes
  • Salt & Pepper To Taste
  • 3 Tablespoons Tomato Paste
  • 3 Cups Cooked Chickpeas, or 2 (15-ounce) Cans Drained & Rinsed (See Notes Above)
  • 3/4 Pound Ditalini or Macaroni

To Serve:

  • Seasoned Olive Oil (See Notes Above)
  • Cracked Black Pepper
  • Grated Pecorino Romano Cheese

Directions:

  1. Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large heavy pot over medium heat and add the onions, guanciale, carrots, and celery and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Cook, stirring often, until golden, 8-10 minutes.
  3. Add garlic, parsley, rosemary, and red pepper flakes, and stir to mix.
  4. Stir tomato paste and 1 cup water in a small bowl to combine, then add to pot.
  5. Cook, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pot.
  6. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer for 5 minutes.
  7. Add the chickpeas and 2 cups of water to pot and simmer for 15 minutes to let flavors meld.
  8. Transfer 1 cup chickpea mixture to food processor and purée until very smooth.
  9. Stir the blended chickpea mixture into sauce to thicken.
  10. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente.
  11. Drain the pasta, reserving 1 cup pasta cooking water.
  12. Add cooked pasta to the pot with the chickpeas along with 1/2 cup cooking water.
  13. Cook 5 minutes, adding extra cooking water as needed if mixture is too thick.
  14. Serve in individual bowls, with toppings as suggested.