August 14, 2020

A la Carte: Last Week, Pesto, This Week, Pasta … But ‘e Fagiole!’

Lee White

It was a nice week: a little rain, a lot of sunshine, my first trip to the beach and low humidity. One evening, friends and I had dinner at Filomena’s, outside under a big tent, and listened to the New London Big Band, minus about six members, play mellow jazz. The decibels of the speakers were just right, it threatened to rain but didn’t and the food, as usual, was yummy.

I cooked quite a bit at home, on the grill and even in the kitchen, since my condo is air-conditioned. I also spent some time at two different farm markets. At my CSA, I got carrots, blue green beans, some lettuces, flowers and some cheese.

At the Groton Farm Market in Washington Park, I bought some cranberry beans, basil and tomatoes. I asked whether the tomatoes at Whittles were local, and she said they were their own. “We don’t have many yet, but these are our own,” she explained. I was very surprised; this is the first time I can remember when local tomatoes arrived before sweet corn.

When I got home I tasted one of the tomatoes and there was no doubt it was local. As I made myself my first summer BLT, I thought what I might make with some of my harvest and I found pasta e fagiole (pasta and beans) that I had written about in 2005.

I looked up cranberry beans and saw that it took under half an hour until they softened. I found pepperoni links, some canned cannellini beans, ground beef and pepperoni in the freezer and a big can of fire-roasted Muir Glen diced tomatoes. I had frozen my own basil pesto and decided I would use that instead of parsley. 

On Sunday afternoon, I made the pasta and beans. It was really good, maybe even better than before, since so many of the ingredients were so fresh.

If you have air-conditioner, make it now. If not, save that recipe for fall or winter. 

Pasta e Fagiole

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 small onion, diced
A handful of baby carrots, diced into small pieces
3 stalks celery, diced small
1 pound ground beef (optional)
½ pound pepperoni, thinly sliced (optional)
1 can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
About half of pound of cranberry beans, cooked
About half of pound of blue green beans, cut into 1 inch slices
1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes (preferably Muir Glen but another will do)
1 small can tomato paste
2 tablespoons basil pesto (optional, but delicious)
2 cups water
salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon finely chopped parsley
½ pound pasta (ditalini, tubetini or small elbow macaroni), cooked
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano or romano cheese

In a large heavy-bottomed pot, brown onion. garlic and carrots in olive oil until light golden. Stir in celery and continue cooking until celery is tender. If using ground beef, add and cook until no longer pink. If using pepperoni, add now. Stir in beans, tomatoes, tomato paste and water.   Bring to a boil, then reduce to simmer, cover and cook about half an hour, stirring occasionally. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and parsley. Add pasta to soup and cook for an additional 5 minutes. Serve with freshly grated Parmesan or Romano.

About the author: Lee White has been writing about restaurants and cooking since 1976 and has been extensively published in the Worcester (Mass.) Magazine, The Day, Norwich Bulletin, and Hartford Courant. She currently writes Nibbles and a cooking column called A La Carte for LymeLine.com and also for the Shore Publishing and Times newspapers, both of which are owned by The Day.

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