Italian Comfort Food. Pasta e Fagioli, colloquially known as “pasta fazool”, is one of those soups that is virtually limitless in its variations. Every region of Italy, every town, village, home has their own version. This is my favorite–it’s simple, basic, and extremely satisfying. You can add carrots and other vegetables to the soup, as well as other beans, or a combination of beans (black or kidney beans are a beautiful contrast to the white beans and pasta), as well as cooked sausage or other protein. Broth can be used instead of or in addition to water, and though I don’t list grated cheese as an element, by all means feel free to add some to your soup bowl. The one constant I have found in researching this recipe, especially among Italians, is that the soup is very thick, stew-like, yet is still eaten with a spoon.

Dried Bean Version:

2 c dried white beans, traditionally cannelloni, though navy is great
2 or 3 large, peeled garlic cloves, left whole
3 t dried sage or 5 – 6 fresh sage leaves
8 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 t salt
1/2 t ground black pepper
1/2 lb (roughly 2 c) tubular pasta, such as elbows, penne, ziti…

1. Soak beans (or not) according to your preferred method, or search the Bean Brine entry in Native Offering’s recipe blog. Drain beans, then add enough water to cover by a couple of inches. Bring to a simmer, skimming any foam that rises to the surface. Add garlic, sage, and 4 T of the olive oil. Simmer until tender, adding more hot water if necessary to keep the beans just covered. When the beans are done to your liking, remove the fresh sage leaves (or not), and add salt and pepper. If you like, you can purée some of the beans for a thicker consistency.

2. Meanwhile, cook pasta until al dente, or to your preference. Drain and reserve.

3. Stir the cooked pasta into the beans, adding more water if necessary to just cover everything. Simmer long enough to heat through. Serve, drizzled with the remaining olive oil (plus some grated cheese if you like, but try it first without…).

Cooked Bean Version:

8 T extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 – 3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 t dried sage
5 c or so cooked, drained beans
4 c liquid–bean cooking liquid, broth, water, or a combination, plus extra if necessary
1/2 lb (roughly 2 c) tubular pasta, such as elbows, penne, ziti…, cooked al dente or to your preference
salt and pepper, to taste

1. In a large skillet or sauce pan, combine the garlic and 3 – 4 T of the olive oil. Heat over low heat for about 5 minutes, but do not let the garlic brown. Add the sage and cook for about a minute longer.

2. Add the beans and the liquid. Bring to a simmer and cook at a simmer for 10 minutes. Purée some of the beans, if you like, for a thicker consistency. Stir in the cooked pasta along with some salt and pepper, as well as extra liquid if you think it’s needed. Heat through, and serve, as above, with a drizzle of olive oil.