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Monday, October 7, 2013

Pasta Fasul a.k.a Pasta and Beans

My Pasta Fasul with Barlotti beans.
We are big bean eaters in our family. I'm willing to bet my husband would turn down a New York strip for a bowl of pasta with beans! We love all legumes; lentils, navy beans, garbanzo beans, barlotti, all of them. Most everyone has heard of Pasta Fasul. That's dialect for Pasta e Fagoli. Which means pasta with beans. The traditional pasta fasul is made with the barlotti bean. They are a marbled colored bean, light brown with reddish brown streaks. But you can use any of your favorite beans. The hardest part about making this dish is remembering to soak the beans the night before! Since the beans have been dried, they need to be soaked to soften them up for cooking, otherwise they would just take  forever to cook. Here's how I make mine.

Beans soaking in water.

  1. Soak your beans overnight in water with a teaspoon of baking soda. Cover the beans with lots of water because they will expand.
  2. Chop onions carrots and celery, saute in a large pot with some olive (Extra Virgin). I use my second favorite kitchen appliance, my pressure cooker. (First favorite is my dishwasher!) I use my pressure cooker all the time, I love it. It cooks in half the time!
  3. Rinse the beans that have soaked all night and dump them in the pot, add water to cover the beans about an inch above the beans.
  4. Add a little tomato sauce, some chopped garlic, and salt & pepper. I also add red pepper because we like a little kick to our beans.
  5. I also like to add a large potato cut up in small cubes. That way they almost dissolve and make for a smooth and creamy pasta.
  6. Now for the secret ingredient. Parmesan cheese rinds! Yes you read right, I save the rinds of the Parmesan cheese, you know that outer part of the cheese that's so hard you just throw it out. Well don't! Save it for your soups. Soak it in a little water to soften it up, cut it up in small pieces and throw that in, too. It will give your Pasta Fazul an awesome creamy texture and cheesy flavor.
  7. Now cover your pot and bring to a boil, lower heat to a steady simmer and cook for about an hour and a half, maybe two hours. The pressure cooker takes about 45 minutes. We like our beans to be soft but still be intact. (The longer you cook them the softer they get and will begin to fall apart.) 
My awesome pressure cooker.

 8.  Once the beans are cooked to your liking, add some pasta. We like to use ditali with our pasta e fagioli. They are about as big a around as mostaccioli but much smaller in length. Just big enough for a bean to fit inside. You might need to add a little water at this point, but not too much, you want a smooth and creamy consistency, not watery.
 9. Cook the beans some more until the pasta is just "al dente", to the tooth, as they say here in Italy. ( In other words, not mushy.)
 10. Let it cool, top with a drizzle of olive oil and freshly grated Parmasan cheese.

Serve with a nice red wine and maybe some garlic bread. Nummy, now that's some good comfort food!
Buon Appetito!

TIP: If you aren't used to eating a lot of beans, I'd advise the use of some beano or gas-x with that Pasta Fazul. It will just make for a much happier digestion!)
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