I’ve been in the mood for beans lately, so we made an Italian style dinner of pasta e fagioli, garlicky roasted tomatoes and eggplant, and salad with homemade balsamic dressing. Italian food is very popular in Japan, so the ingredients weren’t too hard to find. I did have to go to the international market for the herbs and balsamic vinegar, though. One thing that I wasn’t able to find there was the small shell pasta that I usually use for pasta e fagioli, so I picked out some nice looking orechiette instead.
The pasta e fagioli began life as Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe from Food Network, but I’ve adjusted it to fit my tastes and cooking style. I don’t really pay attention to the time when I make soup, I just set the pot to a simmer and serve it when everything else is ready to eat. Usually this means half an hour or an hour or more of bubbling quietly on the stove while I work on other things. Of course, this would make the pasta mushy for pasta e fagioli, so I try to guess when everything else will be finished, and start the pasta about 10 minutes before that. The roasted tomatoes and eggplant are also Giada de Laurentiis’s recipe. I used all fresh tomatoes instead of canned, so the tomatoes were a bit tart. If I make this dish again, I might stir some tomato paste or sugar into the chopped tomatoes to enhance the sweetness a bit.
I don’t currently have a pepper grinder, so I crack my pepper in a suribachi. This leaves the suribachi coated in ground black pepper. Not wanting to waste this perfectly good pepper, I thought I’d make a salad dressing in the suribachi. The dressing was nicely seasoned, and I can’t help but think that whisking the dressing in the ridged bowl of the suribachi instead of a mixing bowl helped it to come together into a nicely emulsified dressing. Since I was just throwing ingredients together to taste, I am not quite sure of the quantities, but I’ll do my best to guess.
Pasta e Fagioli
6 sprigs fresh thyme and 1 sprig fresh rosemary, discard tough stems, chop finely
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrot, chopped
2 ribs celery, chopped
3 ounces pancetta or bacon, chopped
2 teaspoons minced garlic
6 cups (about 1200 mL) chicken stock
3 cups or 2 cans cooked beans of your choice. I like a mix of white beans and chick peas.
1 cup small shell pasta, orechiette, or macaroni
Freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Chopped fresh parsley
In a large saucepan or dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, pancetta or bacon, and garlic and saute for a few minutes until the bacon becomes lightly browned and renders some of its fat. Add the carrot and celery and continue cooking, stirring occasionally. Sprinkle the vegetables with a good pinch of salt. Allow the vegetables to soften slightly and become lightly browned. Add the broth, beans, and herbs. Season to taste with salt and pepper, then simmer for about 20 to 30 minutes. Remove and discard the bay leaf. Carefully puree one or two cups of the soup in a blender. Before putting the puree back into the soup, add the pasta and cook until it is tender but still firm to the bite. Return the puree to the soup and stir together.
Serve topped with freshly grated Parmesan and chopped fresh parsley.
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon lemon juice
3/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
½ cup olive oil
With a small whisk, mix together salt, pepper, Dijon mustard, honey, and lemon juice in a suribachi until the honey dissolves. Add the balsamic vinegar and stir together again. Now, whisking quickly, slowly add the olive oil about 1 to 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking thoroughly between each addition. The dressing should emulsify into a thick liquid. Taste and adjust the quantities of each ingredient. The amounts listed above are my best guess, but may need to be adjusted significantly. I used lemon juice because I had a lemon to use up, but feel free to replace the lemon juice with balsamic vinegar, orange juice, or any other tart liquid.