I should probably refer to this pasta e fagioli soup as “blizzard soup.” The forecast called for up to 20 inches of snow (though we only got seven). I was determined to keep the stove going and get a batch of hot soup. Besides, there is more snow coming tomorrow!
Therefore, I deliberately made this the “hard” way. First, I soaked the beans overnight. Then I cooked the beans and sort of followed a recipe from The New York Times. I cut it in half and added pancetta (don’t know why they left that out).
I even made my own vegetable stock. If you spot potatoes and carrots in the photo, it’s because they were in the homemade vegetable stock recipe . Neither one is traditional for pasta e fagioli soup, but I left them in anyway. Why toss perfectly good veggies? I didn’t include them in the recipe here though.
You can use vegetable stock, or chicken stock if you prefer. I would have made chicken stock but I didn’t have enough chicken bones. And I certainly wasn’t going out to get some in a blizzard!
Don’t be put off by the long prep time on this recipe. That includes soaking the beans overnight. You can speed this up by using my quick soak method. That cuts the soaking time down from 8 hours to only one.
If you’re really in a hurry, and don’t have the time or patience to soak and cook the beans for an hour or more, use a can of white cannellini beans instead. Make the rest of the soup, then add the can of beans. Just cook them long enough to heat through.
Pour the soaked beans, along with the water, into a large pot (a Dutch oven will do nicely).
Add the onion and turn the heat to medium. Bring it to a soft boil (bubbling slowly,).
You may see foam rising to the top. You can remove that with a spoon (it's not harmful, it's just not attractive).
Add the garlic and the bay leaf (you can put the bay leaf in a tea ball so it's easier to remove).
Simmer the beans for 30 minutes.
Add salt to taste and let the beans cook another hour. Check to see that they're soft. If not, cook another half an hour.
Taste the beans and add more salt if needed. Take out the bay leaf. Drain the beans with a colander over a bowl. Keep the broth, you'll use it for the soup.
Heat oil in dutch oven. Add the onion and cook for five minutes or until the onion softens.
Add the rosemary, garlic, and pancetta.
Cook for a minute. The scent should start to waft through your kitchen.
Add the tomatoes, sugar, salt, and pepper
Cook for 5-10 minutes.
Add the bean broth you set aside, and the stock.
Add the bouquet garni, Manchego rinds, and more salt.
Turn the heat to medium-high until the soup boils. Then reduce the heat and let it simmer for half an hour.
Add the pasta and cook for 10 minutes, until it's al dente.
Taste and add more salt and/or pepper if needed.
Remove the cheese rinds and serve.
Use dried beans if you have them, and have the time. If not, this works with canned beans too. If you use canned beans, drain the can first. Place the beans, water, and the remaining ingredients from the bean recipe in your pot. Simmer for 30 minutes. Then move on to the rest of the soup.
You can tie the bouquet garni ingredients together (if you use fresh herbs). If not, put them in a tea ball. It makes it easier to remove them.
Substitutions and Variations for Pasta e Fagioli Soup
Save time and use canned beans
Try different kinds of beans: pinto, kidney, or cranberry
Use chicken stock instead of vegetable stock
Use bacon or pork fat instead of pancetta (I even used soppressata salami once)
Add one potato (cut into chunks) to the soup
Chop up a handful of spinach and add that with the pasta