Thursday, July 15, 2010

Pasta Fagioli

I first heard of this book when Kay sent me to Dawn's blog to read about it. After I raved in a comment, Dawn most generously sent me the book, and it is now one of my favorite cookbooks. As I read through it, I was amazed at how many of the dishes are vegetarian or can be made so very easily. I also saw many dishes we already make, including spaghetti with garlic and olive oil and pasta with sautéed vegetables. Her tomato sauce is much like mine, only leaving out the onion. I'll be offering more recipes from this wonderful book as time goes on. Here is one of many videos from you tube featuring Clara.

This is a very special book because it is both a cookbook and a personal history. There are family stories and photographs which are as much a part of the story as the recipes. One of my favorite phrases on earth is pasta fagioli, pronounced pasta fazool, and sometimes without the 'l' on the end. I'll post her version first, and then note the few changes I made. A real treat today is that the garlic and onion and basil all came from our garden.

Pasta With Beans (Pasta Fagioli)

Hands on: 30 minutes Total time: 1 hour, plus overnight soaking if using dried beans Serves:6

“Between you and me, I used to hate eating Pasta With Beans, but that’s because we had to eat it so much. Over the years, I’ve started to like it more. I remember in my house growing up, there were lots of things I didn’t like to eat that my mother made me eat. And then there were lots of things my own family didn’t like to eat. But I made them anyway. I guess that’s just how it goes. We had Pasta With Beans almost every week, sometimes twice or three times a week. Usually my mom would just make it with pasta, beans, garlic and olive oil, but every so often she would make a real Pasta Fagioli. And that would be really special.”

“If you decide to use dried beans, rinse them well before cooking. Add 1 cup dried cannellini beans to 6 cups boiling water and rapid boil for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and cover. Soak overnight. Makes about 2 cups. Before you begin, cook the pre-soaked beans by boiling them in water with a pinch of salt for about 10 minutes. Turn down the heat, cover, and simmer for an additional hour.”

5 tablespoons olive oil

1 clove garlic, thinly sliced

1 yellow onion, thinly sliced

2 cups tomato sauce (jarred or homemade)

3 1/2 cups water

1 carrot, chopped

1 whole celery rib (with leaves), chopped

1 cup dried cannellini beans (white kidney beans) or 2 cups canned

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 large basil leaf

2 dried red pepperoncini, crushed

1 pound small-shaped pasta (ditalini, mini-shells)

1/4 cup fresh parsley, chopped

Grated pecorino Romano cheese

In a large pot set to medium-high heat, add olive oil. Add garlic and onion and cook until caramelized, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add tomato sauce, water, carrot, celery, cannellini beans, bouillon cubes, basil leaf and pepperoncini. Cover, venting slightly, and cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is reduced, about 35 minutes.

While the sauce is reducing, cook the pasta to al dente (about 2 minutes less than what the directions on the box say, about 7 minutes). Strain pasta and pour it into the sauce. Turn off heat and stir 2 minutes. Top with fresh parsley and pecorino Romano cheese and serve.

My notes:
I put a cup of cannellini beans in the crockpot, and cooked them until soft, a few hours.
I chopped a carrot and cooked it a bit in a saucepan. I've found that carrots take forever to soften if cooked along with other vegetables.

I chopped the onion and garlic and the basil leaf.

I cooked the onion for a while in the 5 T. olive oil, then added the garlic and basil (I used the rest of the basil for a spring salad. Toward the end of cooking, I threw in the cooked carrot just for fun, and cooked a short while longer. I did this in a small frypan.

I put the 2 cups tomato sauce

and the cannellini beans and water into a big saucepan.

I added the onion, garlic, basil, and carrot, and that was it. I didn't have celery or parsley or pepperoncini. Though I do have a vegetable broth made by the Rapunzel company, I chose not to use it.

The smallest pasta I had on hand was elbow macaroni, and this worked just fine. Honestly you could eat the bean mixture without any pasta at all if you wished. It is just delicious, and a bit similar to a few of the stews I've made (see under main meals on the sidebar). A fantastic dish, and as healthy as can be!


  1. I'm so glad that you got this book and have enjoyed it. The whole thing just screamed "NAN" to me when I read about it. :-)

    Isn't Clara precious? I loved the video. I can't bleieve her husband was in the Vatican Choir!

  2. Thanks for this post, which has reminded me to catch up on Clara--what a 100 percent lovely person! I'll be scooting over to You Tube asap to catch up. I like her recipes, but mostly I love to hear her words of wisdom and stories.

  3. Here we are, on the same page yet again! I posted this book yesterday...and I hadn't even read about it from any blog, just stumbled upon it at the library...honestly Nan, we do have such similar taste in books it is amazing...
    Have a wonderful weekend

  4. That picture of the finished product looks phenomenal!! When I get better reception I will have to watch that youtube video..stormy night out and I just can't seem to get broadband!!

  5. It is only 6.30 am here, and I have not even had breakfast yet, but the pictures going along with the recipe make me think of dinner already :-)
    There is nothing but a white square where the youtube link is supposed to be, though...? Maybe it only doesn't work for me as I am outside the US; sometimes country regulations on youtube prevent me from watching certain clips.

  6. My kind of food, sounds a good cookbook.

  7. Very nice post Nan. But I am never ever coming to see you before breakfast again ;>) The sound you hear is my tummy rumbling.

    I've got my mom's copy of the Household Searchlight cookbook, depression era recipes that I used all the time. But this one sounds better, with the stories ...

  8. Hi Nan, I love this cookbook too! When I stumbled upon it I read it right through like a novel, and I can't say I've done that with very many cookbooks. Clara's voice and stories are so authentic ... and everything, everything, is about simplicity and making do with what you have. I especially love three stories from the book and You Tube: the inspiration I got from the one about going out to gather dandelion greens; the lesson from the one about the friend who hid away and ate another dinner elsewhere after Clara's family finished theirs (in shocking contrast to her own family's healthy satisfaction with what was put before them); and the delight of the one about the children who now beg Clara to make a "poor man's meal." It's an inspiring way to cook. Thanks for your added tips! Annette

  9. Nan, that dish sounds and looks yummy! Thanks for sharing!

  10. Kay, you were so right! I adore the book and the woman!

    Linda, this is the best use of you tube I can imagine - capturing these people, and hearing their voices.

    Niki, and I didn't get a chance to visit yesterday! I'll be right over. I'm amazed.

    Staci, do you have a dish? Wildblue? In a way I'm kind of fond of the way weather plays a part in technology. :<)

    Librarian, I can't believe there are any restrictions like this! You may try going to this address to see if you can watch via the you tube site:

    And the dish is fantastic!

    Cait, it is wonderful. Simple, real ingredients, delicious meals.

    Sallie, I've never heard of this cookbook, but what a great name. I'll go look it up.
    You will love Clara's Kitchen - I'm quite sure.

    Annette, so very glad to hear from you!! And thank you for your favorite stories. Isn't it wonderful that Clara has so many fans?!!

    Sherri, it is really great!

  11. What a wonderful post. Love your food photos, too. So now I've met Clara, want another cook book, and I need to show Clara's video to my husband who is Italian because it all looks so much like his own family. Nan, your blog is one of my favorites ever!

  12. Clair, I thank you so very much!!! And your husband will love the woman and her cookbook.

  13. I placed a hold on this book and look forward to it coming in. Thank you for sharing your recipes and this lovely lady with us...I can tell that I will just love her!

  14. Back again! I took the time to watch the youtube and boy am I glad I did! What a doll! I just want to give Clara a big hug and thank her for her wisdom and her humor...she's soooo cute! I can tell from the pictures that she is a very fun-loving woman and would be a delight to know!
    Thanks again for sharing,
    whose 2nd name is Clara...hope I can be as wise and wonderful when I am her age;)
    Romantic story yet she met her hubby and married in Italy!

  15. Joanne, I was so thrilled to find out about her, and her recipes. I love cookbooks like this - that tell stories about the food and the author. I knew you would love Clara.

  16. Love her, so glad to discover yet another great find through you!

  17. I'm also just thrilled to find her, Susan!!

  18. I love watching all of Clara's video's. She's adorable! I first heard about her a year or so ago.

    I have a Pasta Fagioli recipe that we love but don't make often enough. You can take a look here.

  19. Les, that's the non-vegetarian version for sure!! Interesting using thyme and rosemary - that would make quite a different taste, I think.

  20. I'm so glad Clara's stories and recipes resonated with you, Nan!

    Your pics in the blog are gorgeous (yes, I'll say it, I'm hungry, too!)

  21. Dawn, I'm glad you came by to read this. I am so grateful for your kindness.


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