I love to have soup for dinner. I’ve been known to whip up a big pot of chicken noodle, or corn chowder, or my grandmother’s roasted red pepper soup, and live on it for a week. That, of course, was when I was a law student living alone in Foggy Bottom. Now that I’ve got a man around the house, the situation has changed slightly. Soup for dinner is still okay, but only if it has some substance to it. So my favorite split pea soup is scorned, but this pasta e fagioli – with red kidney beans, chewy pasta and a thick broth – is acceptable. In fact, it’s more than acceptable; it’s hearty but healthy, with a delicious, savory flavor, and it’s a one pot meal. Sign me up! But of course, I’m the notorious soup lover in the household. The hubs is the real critic, when it comes to soup… and he loved it too.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 shallot, minced
2 strips turkey bacon (optional)
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken stock, divided (preferably organic and free-range)
1/2 cup pastina (such as ditalini or small elbows)
- In a large, heavy stock pot, heat approximately 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add minced shallot, season with kosher salt, and saute until tender. (If desired, add turkey bacon here and cook until crisp, then remove from the heat, leaving the renderings. Place bacon on a paper towel and allow it to cool, then dice it. I didn’t bother with any of this; so don’t feel it’s necessary – it’s just nice if you have time, which I didn’t…)
- Once shallots are tender and translucent, add kidney beans and 1 cup of the chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then turn the heat down slightly and allow the beans to cook at a high simmer or low boil for 10 minutes.
- Using an immersion blender, blend soup just slightly, until some of the beans are broken up and thickening the stock, but most are still whole. Alternatively, you can transfer about 1/4 to 1/3 of the beans to a blender or food processor, puree them, and transfer them back into the pot. (This is actually how you are supposed to do it – I’m just lazy.)
- Add the remaining 3 cups of chicken stock and 1/2 cup of pastina. Elbow macaroni works great, but I used ditalini, which was yummy too. Any small pasta will do.
- Boil approximately 10 minutes. (If you bothered with bacon, now would be the time to stir most of it back in, reserving some as a garnish.) Season to taste with salt (if needed) and pepper, then serve with parmesan grated fresh over the top.
Source: Adapted from Giada’s Family Dinners, by Giada de Laurentiis