In the Sicilian dialect that is what we call it, Pasta Fasoli. Macaroni and beans. A simple dish my grandmother made at a moments notice. At a high priced Italian restaurant they call it Pasta Fagioli, and charge you plenty. It’s amazing how a simple peasant food can be elevated into a high priced Italian speciality. But isn’t that the case for most ethnic dishes. Pork rib meat was one the cheapest cuts of meat you can get. In the south they would smoke the meat and cook it slowly for hours to tenderize it and flavor it for consumption. Today, barbecue is all the rage and you can pay$20 and up for a rack of ribs. Baby Backs cost even more.
Pasta fasoli is real comfort food. It’s a hearty dish that can be eaten as a meal, and was, in a time when macaroni and beans was all a family could afford in order to put food on the table. Eat it with a loaf of bread and your meal is complete.
There are many variations of this dish. For the most part, you used what you had in the house at the time. All Italian pantries had macaroni and beans, garlic, tomatoes and whatever seasonal herb was available. You made the best with what you had. If you had meat, you put it in the dish. Usually, fat back or bacon (pancetta). Pieces of scrap beef or pork bones. Whatever you included in this dish would just add to the flavor. My grandmother just added water to the pot. Today I throw in a few bouillon cubes. There is no right way or wrong way to make this dish. But it is a simple dish, so don’t go crazy.
- 1 sprig of fresh oregano, chopped
- 1 sprig of fresh rosemary, chopped
- 2 fresh basil leaves, chopped
- 3 tablespoons of olive oil
- 1 chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, chopped
- 1 cup of tomato sauce or peeled plumb tomatoes, chopped
- 5 cups of water
- 3 chicken bullion cubes
- 2 ounces pancetta (optional)
- 2 cans red kidney beans or cannelloni beans, drained and rinsed
- 3/4 cup elbow macaroni or ditalini
- black pepper and salt to taste
- grated Parmesan cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
In a heavy sauce pot heat the olive oil over medium flame and add the chopped onions and pancetta. Cook for 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook 1 minute.
Add the tomatoes, oregano, and rosemary and bring to a simmer. Add the water and bullion cubes and bring to a simmer.
Add the beans, macaroni, and red pepper flakes.
Bring to a boil and stir. Partially cover and let cook for 8-9 minutes on medium low heat or until pasta is tender, stirring occasionally. Taste for salt and pepper.
Spoon into serving bowls and sprinkle with plenty of grated Parmesan cheese. This dish taste even better heated up the next day.