Italian Bean, Grain, and Legume Soups
Pasta e Fagioli
Pasta e Fagiole
(Serves 6 to 8)
Pasta e fagiole is most closely associated with the Veneto region, but it is found through southern Italy as well. Every Italian cook has his or her own version of this dish. Some people prefer the dish to be more like soup while others like it more like a stew. Pasta e fagiole may be made with canned or dried cannellini beans; we give you directions for using both. You may wish to add some diced ham or pancetta that have been sautéed until crisp; this will give the soup additional flavor but it is a very good dish without it.
1 pound dried or 2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans
1/3 cup olive oil
2 medium onions, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
Large pinch red pepper flakes
1-1/2 cups chopped canned Italian tomatoes
6 cups chicken broth
Salt and pepper
2 bay leaves
One 5-inch spring fresh rosemary, or 1 teaspoon dried
One small piece Parmesan or pecorino rind (optional)
4 ounces ditalini or other small pasta
Olive oil and grated cheese for serving
If you are using dried cannellini beans:
Soak the dried beans in 2 quarts of water for 12 to 18 hours.
Change the water once or twice during that time. Drain.
In a large stockpot, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onions, and cook until softened, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes, and cook for another 4 minutes. Add the cannellini beans (either dried or canned), tomatoes, broth, seasonings, herbs, and cheese rind. (The cheese rind gives the soup some extra flavor, so if you have a piece available, add it now) Bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently for 30 to 45 minutes. (Thirty minutes is enough time for canned beans. Cook dried beans until tender.) Remove and discard the cheese rind, bay leaves, and rosemary sprig.
Cook the ditalini pasta in boiling salted water until al dente. Drain.
Transfer 2-1/2 cups of the soup to a food processor or blender and puree.
Return the pureed soup to the pot and add the cooked ditalini. Heat through.
Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkle of grated cheese.
Zuppa alla Molisana
Chickpea Soup in the Style of Molise
Molise is a small region in southern Italy. The Molisani have a fondness for legumes and cheese, a combination that is the base for this soup. Molise is almost completely covered with mountains and sheep are an important part of the region's economy. The local cheeses are primarily made from sheep's milk. This recipe is traditionally made with scamorza, which can be made from sheep or cow's milk, and is similar to a dry mozzarella. We are substituting mozzarella in this recipe but if you can find scamorza by all means use it.
1-1/2 cups dry chickpeas, soaked overnight
6 cups chicken broth
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
8 thick slices crusty bread, toasted
3 eggs, beaten
8 ounces mozzarella cheese, sliced
Grated pecorino cheese
Drain the soaked chickpeas, place in a pot, add chicken broth and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat, cover, and cook until the chickpeas are tender, about 45 minutes. Drain the chickpeas and reserve the liquid.
In a deep skillet over medium-low heat, add the oil and onions. Cook onions until soft and translucent. Add the chickpeas to the skillet and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the reserved liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook 10 minutes to reduce the liquid a little. Stir occasionally.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Oil a baking dish, about 9 x 13 x 2-inches. Dip the bread in the beaten eggs and place 4 slices in the baking dish. Add the chickpeas and broth, half of the mozzarella, and a handful of pecorino cheese. Add the remaining 4 slices of bread and top the bread with the remaining mozzarella. Sprinkle the top with additional pecorino cheese.
Bake 20-25 minutes or until bread and cheese is golden brown. Divide into equal portions in individual soup bowls.
Barley and Bean Soup
"Zuppa di Orzo e Fagioli"
1 cup borlotti, cranberry, or red kidney beans
2 ounces pancetta or bacon, finely chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
8 cups water
1/2 cup pearl barley
Salt and pepper
Rinse the beans and put in a bowl. Cover with water and allow to sit for 4 hours. Drain the beans and add to a saucepan with 8 cups of water. Cook over low heat, uncovered, about 1 hour, or until the beans are tender. Drain and reserve the liquid.
In a saucepan over medium heat, sauté the pancetta in the oil until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, onion, and garlic. Sauté about 8 minutes. Puree the beans and the vegetable mixture in a food mill or blender. Return the puree to the saucepan. Add the reserved cooking liquid, barley, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until barley is tender about 30 minutes. Serve.
Venetian Pea and Rice Soup"Risi e Bisi"
This is a typical soup from the Veneto region, prepared in the winter and using peas to make the stock. It is usually served with a fair amount of liquid.
4 cups chicken or beef broth
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons butter, divided
1 small onion, diced
2 ounces thick pancetta, diced
3/4 cup risotto rice
2 cups peas
2 tablespoons chopped mint
4 tablespoons Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
Bring broth to a simmer in a saucepan. In a large deep skillet, heat the oil and 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the onion and cook over low heat until soft, about 5 minutes. Increase heat to medium, add pancetta and cook 2 more minutes. Add the rice and stir to coat well with the oil mixture. Pour in the hot broth, lower the heat, and simmer 10 minutes. Add the peas and cook until rice is tender, 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat, stir in remaining butter, mint, and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and serve.
Time an issue?
Even those with a busy schedule can make meal times magical. Prepare the slow cooker the night before--simply add ingredients to the stoneware insert and refrigerate overnight. Then, before work in the morning, set the stoneware insert into the heating base, secure the lid, turn it on, and set the programmable timer; the slow cooker takes care of the rest.
ITALIAN SOUP RECIPES > BEAN, GRAIN, AND LEGUME SOUPS
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