Please welcome Hank as he shares a simple Italian classic, pasta e fagioli, or pasta and bean soup. Perfect for Lent if you swap the chicken stock out for veg stock! ~Elise
Pasta fazool. I knew—and loved—this dish years before I knew how to spell it. Growing up in New Jersey, pasta e fagioli is a staple on every red sauce place’s menu, along with spaghetti and meatballs, lasagna, alfredo and cannolis. Fazool (which is Neapolitan dialect for the standard Italian word for “beans”) is a peasant dish, a just simple soup of pasta and beans and veggies.
It’s also a dish of a thousand variations. Some cooks’ pasta e fagioli is so thick it’s basically a pasta dish. Some people use so much tomato the fazool looks like a tomato soup with pasta and beans. Sometimes you’ll see white beans, sometimes borlotti beans (basically the same thing as cranberry beans), and sometimes even kidney beans. Once in a while you’ll see meat, either leftover bits of meatloaf or tiny meatballs, like the ones you see in Italian wedding soup.
If molasses were a beer, it would be a Guinness stout—rich, thick, dark, caramelly, deeply flavorful. It is Ireland’s most popular brew with, get this, more than 1.8 billion pints sold around the world every year. (That’s a lot of beer!) Around here it’s a favorite for St. Patrick’s Day, and you can find stacks of Guinness displays at practically every store that sells beer. Naturally Guinness has made its way into flavoring many dishes, including breads and cakes as well as stews like this one. Guinness stew is Ireland’s answer to Belgian carbonnade, with stout instead of ale, and with root vegetables such as parsnips, carrots, and turnips.
Is there a more perfect combo than pork and cabbage? Usually the cabbage comes in the form of sauerkraut, but it is just as easily braised in a little stock with some sliced onions and seasonings. We used celery seeds and caraway seeds which work beautifully with the cabbage and pork. By the way, are you aware that the USDA has officially lowered the recommended internal temperature for cooked pork? It’s now 145°F, meaning US raised pork can now sport a little pink on the inside without causing worry.