I love, love, love this recipe. I could eat this wonderful soup every single day. It has a deep, rich flavor that will show you the meaning of the word “umami.” This dish is hearty, filling, and comforting. It comes together quickly and is fun to make. Thank you for this winner, Marley Spoon!
I knew that I could love it, though, because it is a version of one of my favorite Italian dishes, pasta e fagioli, which means pasta and beans. I’ve never been to Olive Garden, but I hear they serve a version at that chain. To the American mind, we wouldn’t put pasta and beans together. But it makes good nutritional sense, because even without mean, pasta and beans are a complete protein. So this dish can be meaty, or vegetarian, or even vegan, believe it or not.
The classic bean for this dish is cannellini, which are white kidney beans. You can buy them canned, or you can get them dry and soak them overnight. Honestly, canned is fine. The pasta can be any pasta, although for the vegan and vegetarian options wholegrain is better. Some like flat pasta in this dish, but I actually like the macaroni. Also, this is one of those dishes where, if you collect the rinds from parmesan cheese, you will want to use it here to add richness to the soup. Let’s start with the vegan version, and we’ll build up from there.
1 14-oz can of cannellini beans
1 large onion, finely diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tablespoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 fresh rosemary sprig
2 bay leaves
pinch of chili flakes (optional)
1/2 c white wine (optional)
1 14-oz can of whole peeled tomatoes (also optional, if you don’t like tomatoes.)
3 cups vegetable broth
3 cups greens of your choice: kale, escarole, chard, spinach, collards, roughly chopped
Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil over medium heat in a large pot and add the onion with the rosemary, chili flakes and bay leaves. Leave to soften over medium heat for about 5 minutes, giving them a stir now and then. Add the minced garlic at the end and stir for 20-30 seconds. Add the tomatoes, and break them up with your hands or with a spoon. Simmer for 5-7 minutes, then add wine and the stock. Let this simmer for 10 minutes, then add the beans and simmer a bit longer, 10 minutes or so. Add the pasta, and cook until al dente. Remove from heat and remove the rosemary and bay leaves. Add the greens, and return to medium heat to wilt the greens into the soup. Add salt and pepper. Serve in a bowl, and drizzle with olive oil.
If you want the vegetarian version, then add some rind of parmesan with the broth, and let that simmer, removing it before serving. Grate parmesan over the top of the soup before serving.
For the meaty version, you can make the above, but start with pancetta or bacon. Yes, bacon. Because bacon. Cut the bacon or pancetta into pieces, then sauté in the pot before adding the onions. Then proceed with the recipe as above.
On the other hand, the Italian sausage works as well. Italian sausage can be sweet or hot, so choose depending on your preference for heat. Also, Italian sausage usually has some fennel seed in it, so be aware that this will bring in a slight anise note to the flavors.
As comforting as this dish is, and as nourishing, I have to say, it needs bread. Heat a loaf of French or Italian bread, or baguette, in the oven for the crunch factor. Red or white wine both work with this soup. Leftovers are even better.