Recipe Contest Entry - Main Dish - Pasta e Fagioli

Tue 19 Aug, 2003 01:33 pm
Actually, we call this recipe, which is a variation on Pasta e Fagioli -- Due in Uno (Two in One!)

Pasta e Fagioli is an Italian peasant food (we call it Pasta Fazool in New Jersey) -- and is normally considered a main dish. But the "Two in One" aspect is occasioned by the fact that the basic recipe can be thinned with water to make it more a soup than the thicker main dish it is intended to be.

Obviously, this is a very dressed up version of Pasta e Fagioli -- the peasants do not have access to most of the ingredients we use here.

1/3 lb. Salt pork finely diced (if the salt pork has a skin attached, cut it off first)
1 Medium Onion, thinly sliced
2 -3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
Two celery stalks diced (split each stalk in half lengthwise -- and then dice into half inch pieces)
1 16 oz. can white or red kidney beans
1 35 oz. can whole Italian Plum tomatoes -- squashed as you would for a pasta sauce.
3 8oz. cans tomato sauce (not paste)
1/3 pound ground beef
1/3 pound Italian sausage crumbled (casing removed)
(In a frying pan, fry the sausage until almost brown -- add the ground beef and fry until both are browned, reserve)
1/3 stick of pepperoni diced (slice the pepperoni stick in half lengthwise and then cut into 1/2 inch pieces.)
Tbsp of Oregano (actually, to taste)
Dash of red pepper or hot sauce (optional)

1 lb. Medium Shell macaroni.

In a soup pot or Dutch oven (I prefer the Dutch oven), render the diced salt pork over slow heat until its oils are released. (Adding a couple tbsps. of olive oil helps this process) (If the salt pork had skin attached-put the whole detached skin into the pot - and leave in there until the cooking is over. Remove and eat separately if you like pig skin. It is delicious!)

Saute the onions in the olive oil/rendered salt pork (do not remove the pieces of fried salt pork.)

You want to saute the onions until they start to brown at the edges. As you see the onions get their first hint of brown -- add the garlic and continue the saute for another two minutes.

Add the diced celery and beans (do not drain) --- continue to cook over medium low heat for three minutes - stirring occasionally.

Add tomatoes, tomato sauce, oregano -- continue to cook for three more minutes - stirring occasionally..

Add ground beef, sausage mixture, diced pepperoni, and hot stuff (if you desire) - bring to a simmer - lower heat 'til just simmering and simmer for 15 minutes -stirring occasionally.

(All cooking to be done without a cover.)

In a separate operation -- best done during that last few minutes of cooking -- cook the shells in slightly salted, boiling water -- leaving them al dente. Do not overcook-they will continue to cook after integration with the tomato mixture.

When the shells are cooked and drained, put half of them into a large, deep bowl and ladle several scoops of the tomato mixture over them. Put in plenty of sauce -- it should look almost like a thick stew. Let it sit for five minutes to integrate. (You'll do the same for the other half of the shells -- as the first serving gets used up.)

On the table, you should have crusty Italian or French bread. Another bread option is to take some sliced Italian round loaf and toast several pieces. A bowl of grated Romano cheese is a must.

Some people don't like the mixture thick or prefer to serve the dish as a pasta soup early course -- so a bit of water added to thin it down is fine. I prefer to use a bit of the water the shells were cooked in - and always reserve a cup or two of it. (Be sure the water was only slightly salted!) A thinning done with a bit of red wine ain't bad either.

Halved black olives added as you add the tomatoes works fine. Anchovies added as you add the tomatoes are great also. A bit of diced green bell pepper works. Using a can of chick peas (garbanzos) in place of the kidney beans is a nice touch. And some people like pasta other than shells -- give any pasta a try.
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Tue 19 Aug, 2003 01:43 pm
Wow Frank,...Sounds FANTASTIC!!!

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Frank Apisa
Tue 19 Aug, 2003 06:24 pm
Give it a try, Jerry. I promise you will love it.

Nancy and I hold a year-end party every year -- and the Pasta e Fagioli is a mainstay of the gathering.

I get raves!

NOTE: This is strictly winter fare. Trying it in summer would really be doing it a disservice.
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Tue 19 Aug, 2003 06:42 pm
Frank: Give me a phonetic pronunciation for "fagioli." I ordered it in an Italian restaurant a while back and the waitress implied I was mispronouncing it. I believe anyone named Apisa would have the definitive pronunciation. :wink:
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