My Italian grandmother made pasta e fagioli with fatback (picture a giant slice of bacon without the meat), kidney beans and pasta. Nothing more, nothing less. Matter of fact, she made most of her meals with fatback: scungilli and fatback, swiss chard and fatback pieces, chicken fried in fatback, fatback cooked in fatback. It was cheap, tasty and pure Italian. It wasn’t until I was in my early twenties that I realized the culinary world did not revolve around fatback, Parmesan cheese and extreme amounts of garlic. Don’t get me wrong. Gramma’s pasta e fagioli was good. But as a kid, giant chunks of bacon fat floating in my soup just didn’t thrill me.
This recipe, on the other hand, uses Italian sausage and a few slices of bacon to give it great taste. Gramma would be proud.
Pasta e Fagioli
- 1-1/2 cups ditalini or small shell pasta
- 2 Tbsp olive oil
- 1 lb Italian sausage (sweet or hot), casing removed
- 3 strips bacon, finely chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
- 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
- 2 carrots, peeled and diced
- 2 stalks celery, diced
- 3 cups chicken broth
- 2 (16 oz) cans tomato sauce
- 1 tsp dried basil
- 1 tsp dried oregano
- 1/2 tsp dried thyme
- 1 (15 oz) can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 (15 oz) can white cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- salt and pepper to taste
- In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook pasta according to package directions; drain and set aside.
- In a large pot (6 to 8 quarts), cook bacon over medium-high heat, stirring often, until crisp, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove and place on paper towel to drain.
- In same pot, heat 1 Tbsp olive oil over medium-high heat and add sausage. Cook until brown, crumbling sausage as it cooks. Remove and place on paper towel to drain.
- Add remaining 1 Tbsp olive oil to pot. Stir in garlic, onion, carrots and celery. Cook until tender, about 3-5 minutes.
- Stir in chicken broth, tomato sauce, basil, oregano, thyme, Italian sausage, bacon and 1 cup water. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer, covered, about 15-20 minutes or until vegetables are tender.
- Stir in pasta and beans until heated through.