Saturday, 18 June 2011

"That's Amore!" Pasta e fagioli ( original Italian Pasta and Beans recipe)

You knew it was Tuesday or Friday when you came home from school and you could smell fagioli (haricot beans) ceci (chick peas) or lenticchie (green lentils.) "BORING!" I would say... no longer... even the smell of one of these dishes has the power to fill me with a kind of nostalgia, a longing for those Winter afternoons when the house was warm, the windows were steamed up and the house was "alive" with jokes, laughter and love... and we were all together...

Today I cooked fagioli, Italian bean soup which, in my part of Italy we eat with pasta or served next to "Cime di Rapa" (a vegetable very similar to broccoli but quite bitter in taste. If you can't get hold of this vegetable, Calabrese will do. I had to Calabrese, and I cooked both dishes, to show you!)
I made this from scratch, as my mamma taught me, by soaking 400g ( just over 1lb) of dried haricot beans, overnight. My mother would often make cavatelli ( a type of handmade pasta) to go with pulses. Fresh pasta changed the texture and flavour of the dish quite dramatically and the fact that mamma had made each cavatello for us, with love, certainly made it taste very, very special: "Con amore"... "With love!"

Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 7-8
400g ( just under 1lb) dried haricot beans
2 cloves garlic
celery (as much as you like)
3-4 fresh cherry tomatoes
or 2 plum tomatoes
(tinned will do)
3-4 big glugs olive oil
400g ( just under 1lb) cooked pasta
For the bacon and tomato sauce
to be later added to the cooked beans:
2 glugs olive oil
1 clove garlic, chopped
some pancetta, diced
or bacon
(can omit meat if you are making a
vegetarian version)
1 chilli pepper
5 cherry tomatoes
black pepper

My grandmother's very old terracotta pot.
I remember her cooking beans in it.
Beans cooked in terracotta taste delicious.

I soaked my beans overnight. This morning, I changed the water and covered my beans with more fresh water. You need a lot of water, as the beans will expand during cooking. Next, I added 4 cherry tomatoes, halved, three stick of celery, two garlic cloves and a generous portion of olive oil. I cooked my beans on a moderate heat for an hour and half (they have to be really soft, before you can eat them.)

All the ingredients went in the pan, in cold water

One thing I learnt from my mother is that you don't stir pulses with a metal spoon, as this will alter the temperature in the pan and stop the cooking process and, another thing: if your beans have soaked up all the liquid, you will need to add hot water, not cold!
Once I knew my beans were ready, I made a very quick sauce, using garlic, pancetta (or bacon) cherry tomatoes, one smallish chilli pepper, salt and lots of black pepper, cooked in really hot olive oil, for ten minutes. I added this to my beans, at the end of cooking, for a really delicious and interesting taste.

Some like it hot!

Making the sauce

I cooked some  "casarecce" pasta, which has good texture and flavour, (use short pasta for this, like cavatelli or shells) drained the water and then added to my beans. I reserve some of your pasta water, in case the dish looked too dry.

My fagioli soup is looking very sexy!
I love casarecce

A big bowl of pasta e fagioli... you can
help yourself!

I also prepared a different version, using broccoli Calabrese, served next to some beans. I poured some fresh olive oil over this because... that's the traditional way to eat this... with crusty bread, of course. In Bari, you would use cime di rape ( broccoli di rape in Naples) instead of Calabrese.
This dish is easy and simple and an example of Mediterranean food at its best!
Buon appetito!

 Broccoli e fagioli


  1. Hi Anna, your dish looks really wholesome and tasty. It is so lovely to have and be able to pass on these family recipes. Goodnight, love Linda x

  2. Linda, I can remember my grandmother cooking beans in the glazed terracotta pot in the photo. She used it on a gas cooker and I tried using it myself.It still wouldn't shatter!

    Food is a very important part of the social history of a nation. It tells about your family, your ancestor, the history of the place you were born and, because of these reasons and more, it needs to be valued and passed on.

    Thanks, Linda!

  3. Anna, I do so agree with you, about the social history aspect of food. In Ireland now, so many young people don't know how to cook or bake, everything is either bought in takeaway form or readymade meals, heated in a's terrible! Thankyou for your oh so lovely comments on my blog, you are very kind. You forgot to say which cosy you would like if you won the giveaway, but I am assuming it would be coffee. Have a great week, love Linda x

  4. Yes, Linda, it would be coffee, but really, they are all very nice!