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Guest Post Spotlight Thursday
Hello Lazaro Cooks! readers! I am so pleased to be here. I personally lurve reading Lazaro's posts, just like you and I think we can all agree that he's basically amazing. That being said, thank you Lazaro! It's a true honor that you have asked little old me to be here.
Right now I am vacationing in Italy which means before we left I knew I would either come up with something amazing IN Italy and then prepare that post while in Italy, or be ultra proactive and prepare something ahead of time on the off chance that my dreams of cooking amazing things while in Italy, wouldn't happen.
Teetering on the obsessive compulsive fence, I chose to prepare something ahead of time; something traditional to the Italian region we were visiting. Just in case. This turned out to be a fantastical idea because I have been doing way too much eating to do very much cooking. Ha! And so here it is...
Here in the heart of Tuscany I have learned two things: 1. Noodle Nose, my 4 1/2 year old heartbreaker has found Sofia, the love of his life. 2. Pasta Fagioli is a staple here. Traditionally it is a bean and pasta soup but they also have a version served with bread instead of pasta and that version can be found in virtually any restaurant in the Tuscany area.
Before Italia, pasta fagioli to me, was a simple line in a song. You know the one.... 'when the moon hits the sky like a big-a pizza pie that's...' yep. You know the one.
I always imagined pasta fagioli as a giant bowl of pasta smothered in some kind of ultra heavy red sauce most likely laden with meat, so I have never ventured to learn more until my travels sent me to pasta fagioli 'heartland'.
Considered a 'peasant dish', I assume the bread or pasta is interchanged depending on what was available. I have had it both ways and not only is it incredibly simple, it is delicious, herby and satisfying. And as if that wasn't enough, there's a bonus: It makes the house smell fantastic.
So once again, Lazaro: grazie for asking me to be here. It truly is an honor and I hope this simple yet delicious post does your blog proud :)
Yield, about 8-10 servings (leftovers or good for a crowd)
2 cups dry canellini beans, soaked in water overnight
4 cups water
3 Tablespoons oregano
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon pepper
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 sweet white onion, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
3-4 stalks celery, chopped
3 fresh sage leaves, chopped fine
2 teaspoons dried oregano
4 cups vegetable broth
1 1/2 cups orzo pasta (or other small pasta)
After you have soaked your canellini beans over night, put them in a crock pot with the water, 3 Tablespoons oregano and the 1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Cook on low for about 5 hours.
Note: you can also cook them in a pot, if you're going to be home, but the crockpot makes life a little easier.
To prepare your soup base, heat a little extra virgin olive oil in your soup pot and add the garlic. Cook for about 2 minutes then add the onion. Let cook for another 2-3 minutes.
When onion is soft, add carrot and celery to the mix and let cook for about 4 minutes, stirring as you go.
Note: the combination of onion, carrot and celery is called mire poix. You can buy it already chopped at Joes or you can make it yourself.
Once everything is rather soft, add sage and oregano, give it a stir then add salt pepper and vegetable broth. Turn heat down from medium to low, cover and let sit.
After your soup base has cooked for a while, give it a taste and add salt and pepper as needed. I found it needed more.
Add dry orzo pasta to your soup base and take about 2 to 2 1/2 cups of water from your crockpot of beans. Also, you can turn off the crockpot now :)
The water from the beans is better than using regular water because a: it's already hot and has flavor from cooking the beans and b: it would be a shame to waste it.
Note: you can't really add too much water because the pasta will soak some up and you still want enough liquid to your soup. You will need to add more salt and pepper though.
Return heat to medium, cover and let simmer so the pasta can cook. Let it go for about 5 minutes then check it.
When pasta is al dente, reduce heat to low and transfer beans to your soup base 1 cup at a time.
Note: you won't be using all the beans for your soup. You should have about 1 1/2 cups left over. I'll show you what to do with that later.
Give the whole thing a good stir then taste it and add salt and pepper if needed. Cover and let cook for about another 10-15 minutes then taste it again. At this point the pasta should be ready and you just want to ensure that the salt and pepper ratio is to your liking. If it is, serve it up! If not, add more, stir and cover to allow flavors to combine.
Ladle into a bowl and serve with garlic cheddar crostini or classic crusty bread.
Enjoy folks, thanks again Lazaro and I hope to see you all soon!
Arivederci from Italia!
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