Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with Beans)

Adapted from Mediterranean Hot and Spicy.

photo by Anastasios Mentis

Serves 4

2 cups fresh cranberry beans, or 1 cup dried cranberry beans soaked in water overnight
1/3 cup olive oil, plus additional if you fry the pasta
1 cup chopped onion
1 teaspoon freshly minced garlic
2/3 cup (3 1/2 ounces) chopped pancetta Calabrese (pancetta coated in chili
pepper flakes) or ordinary pancetta or chorizo, sliced
3-5 teaspoons Maras pepper or Hot Red Pepper Flakes to taste
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 1/2 cups good-quality diced tomatoes
1 pound orecchietti or shell pasta
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
5-6 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (optional)

If you are using soaked dried beans, drain them, rinse with cold water, and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for about 3/4 to 1 hour, until the beans are almost soft but still firm. Drain.

In a heavy pot warm the olive oil and sauté the onions for 2 to 3 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, the pancetta, bacon or sausage, 2 teaspoon Maras or pepper flakes, and the fresh cooked beans. Sauté for another 2 minutes, until the water evaporates. Pour in the wine. Cook over high heat for 30 seconds, then add the tomato and about 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, lower the heat and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until the beans are very tender, adding water if needed. Season to taste with salt and more red pepper.

Cook the paste al dente and drain. If you like, halfway through cooking, take about a handful of orecchietti or shells out of the pot with a slotted spoon. Drain on paper towel and fry in olive oil until golden and crunchy. Drain on paper towel.

Toss the cooked pasta with the beans. Cover and let stand for 5 minutes. Add the fried pasta and toss again. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Serve very warm, sprinkled with parsley, Parmesan cheese, or both.


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