Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Ingredients for Making Beans from Scratch:
For The Night Before:
1 pound dried cannellini (white kidney beans), or red kidney beans
2 tablespoons whole plain yogurt
For The Next Day:
3 large Idaho potatoes (about 1 3/4 lb.), peeled
6 quarts of water
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
Directions for Beans from Scratch:
1. The night before, in a large bowl, pour water over beans, covering by at least 3 inches.
2. Stir in yogurt and cover bowl with a cloth and let set in a warm place till you are ready to begin cooking the beans (can be soaked for up to 24 hours).
3. The next day, drain beans and rinse.
4. In a large pot (at least 10 quarts), place beans, 6 quarts water, potatoes, rosemary and bay leaves.
5. Bring to a rolling boil, then adjust heat to a simmer.
6. Let simmer while preparing the bacon and vegetables.
OR if preparing easy version, use 2 (15-ounce) cans of cannellini beans or red kidney beans instead of dried beans as specified above under "Ingredients for Making Beans from Scratch". See "Note: Instructions for Easy Version" below for directions for easy version.
Ingredients for Soup:
12 slices bacon (from range-fed pig, with no nitrates or nitrites)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin, cold-pressed olive oil, plus more for drizzling over soup
1 medium onion, chopped (about 1 c.)
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded (about 1 c.)
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes with their liquid, crushed
salt and pepper to taste
3 cups elbow pasta
freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Directions for Soup:
1. In a food processor, grind the bacon and garlic into a paste, scraping processor bowl as needed.
2. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add bacon mixture and cook, stirring until golden, about 5 minutes.
3. Stir in onion, cooking till translucent.
4. Stir in carrots, and cook until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes.
5. Add crushed tomatoes and bring to boil. Turn down the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Carefully add vegetables from the skillet into bean mixture.
7. Season with salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Cook till beans are tender, about 45 minutes to an hour.
8. Remove about a third of the beans along with enough liquid to cover them into a shallow dish and let sit until cooled (skip this step if preparing the "easy version").
9. Process the cooled beans until creamy.
10. Return beans to the soup pot.
11. Put on a large pot of salted water to cook pasta.
12. To make the soup even creamier, remove potatoes, mash them and return to pot.
13. Bring soup back to a simmer then turn off the heat.
14. Add pasta to boiling water until very al dente.
15. Drain pasta and add to soup.
16. Serve in bowls with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of grated cheese.
Note: Instructions for Easy Version:
Disregard "Making Beans from Scratch" ingredients and instructions. Eliminate the first three ingredients (dried cannellini beans, water and yogurt). Skip these steps and start with the following:
1. In a large pot (at least 10 quarts) place 4 quarts chicken stock, potatoes, rosemary and bay leaves.
2. Bring to a rolling boil, then adjust heat to a simmer. Let simmer while preparing the bacon and vegetables.
3. Continue with #1 through #7 under "Directions for Soup" and disregard #8 through #10.
4. Instead, after #7), run the contents of one can of beans (including liquid) through a food processor to puree. Drain and rinse the other can of beans.
5. Now continue with step #11.
6. Continue with step #12, but add both the pureed beans and the whole beans along with the mashed potatoes back to pot.
7. Now continue with steps #13 through #16.