I think it’s probably very likely that for many Midwesterners like myself, their first exposure to pasta e fagioli was at The Olive Garden. Unlimited soup, salad, and breadsticks can’t be beat! Even if your culinary tastes are somewhat more refined these days, this is a hearty, healthy (and cheap) soup that’s great with crusty bread or toast!
- 100 g bacon lardons (thick cut bacon cut into strips)
- 2 TB olive oil
- 2 medium onions, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 3 stalks celery, finely diced
- 3 carrots, peeled and medium diced
- 400 g can of tomato sauce
- 150 g chopped frozen spinach
- 1/4 tsp fennel seed
- 1/2 tsp thyme
- 1 tsp rosemary
- 1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
- 2 bay leaves
- salt and pepper to taste
- 500 ml chicken or vegetable broth
- 1200 ml water
- 400 g cannellini or Santa Pau beans
- 1 cup small pasta
- secret ingredient: parmesan rind (optional – when I finish a wedge of parmesan cheese I chuck it in a ziploc in the freezer)
Brown the bacon in a large pot (I use a 5.5 liter pot) over medium high heat. When the bacon is browned, swirl in the olive oil, reduce the heat to medium and sauté the onions until they start to become translucent. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant. Add the celery and carrot and cook until they start to become soft, about 10 min.
Add the red pepper flakes, herbs, tomato sauce, spinach, broth and water. Chuck that parmesan rind in if you have it! Bring to a simmer and cook for 20 min. Add the beans and allow to gently simmer for 10 more minutes. Adjust for salt and pepper. Finally, add the pasta and simmer until al dente.
Serve with bread and grated parmesan.