Pasta e fagioli is a straightforward and warming soup that’s definitive of Italian peasant cuisine. Marco Canora passed on this version, which is one of our favorite dishes during the cold winter months.
Game plan: Traditionally, pancetta is included in pasta e fagioli to provide more intense flavor. If you want to use it, add 3 ounces of diced pancetta with the garlic. If you prefer some heat, add a few dried red peppers when you put in the herbs.
For a slacker solution, buy high-quality canned white beans instead of cooking the beans yourself.
1 cup dried tubettini pasta (you can substitute ditalini, conchigliette, or small maccheroni)
2 cups cooked small white beans such as cannellini
2 tablespoons water
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 small yellow onion, finely chopped
2 medium garlic cloves, minced
10 small fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
Leaves from 2 fresh rosemary sprigs, finely chopped
3 tablespoons tomato paste
4 cups reserved bean-cooking liquid
2 ounces Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, grated
Olive oil, for drizzling
Fill a medium saucepan with heavily salted water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add pasta and boil until partially cooked, about 5 minutes. Drain and set aside. Combine 1/2 cup of the cooked beans and the water in a blender or food processor and process until smooth. Set aside.
Heat olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When oil shimmers, add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in garlic, sage, and rosemary and cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in tomato paste and cook until it caramelizes and melts in with the other ingredients, about 2 minutes.
Thin tomato-paste mixture with bean-cooking liquid, add remaining 1 1/2 cups beans, and let simmer for 10 minutes. Add pasta and bean purée to soup, and simmer until pasta is al dente, about 5 minutes. Adjust salt and pepper if necessary, sprinkle with Parmigiano-Reggiano and a drizzle of olive oil, and serve.
Beverage pairing: A medium-bodied Chianti would make a nice partner to this hearty bean soup. Try something juicy, smooth, and uncomplicated, like the 2003 Castello di Monastero Chianti Superiore.