Sicilian pasta fagioli (pasta soup with beans) is very, very simple. It is peasant food at it’s best. You don’t complicate it with a bunch of extra veggies. Some carrots, maybe. This soup is all about the flavor of the broth. It’s hearty and healthy, and extremely comforting. It’s also very inexpensive to make. Be sure to serve this with lots of grated parmesan or pecorino for sprinkling on top. To make this soup vegetarian, I use Better Than Boullion’s Vegetable Base.
For the broth:
- 1 T. olive oil
- 1/2 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 2 carrots, chopped
- 2 garlic cloves, chopped
- 1/4 t. red pepper flakes
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1/2 C. fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
- 2 t. tomato paste
- 2-3 medium sized tomatoes, chopped
- 1/2 C. dry white wine
- 4 C. vegetable or chicken broth (or 4 C. water + 2 t. Better than Boullion)
To finish the soup:
- 1 large carrot, peeled and sliced into coins or half rounds.
- 1 can of large pinto beans or cranberry beans, rinsed and drained
- 1 lb. ditalini or other small pasta, cooked according to package directions, and drained
- grated parmesan or pecorino (sheep’s milk cheese) for sprinkling on top
Heat the olive oil over medium-high heat in a large soup pot or Dutch oven. Add the onion, celery, carrots, garlic and red pepper flakes. Season with salt and pepper, and stir occasionally. Cook until the onions are translucent, about five minutes. Add the parsley and the tomato paste. Increase the heat to high for one minute, stirring, to caramelize the tomato paste. Add the tomatoes and the wine, scraping to loosen the caramelized bits on the bottom. Reduce the heat to medium-high. Add the broth. Bring to a boil and cook until the vegetables are very soft, about 15 minutes. Strain the broth into a clean pot through a fine mesh sieve. Press on the solids to extract as much broth as possible. Bring the strained broth back to a boil and add the sliced carrots. Cook for about five minutes, then add the beans, and cook five minutes more. Stir in the cooked ditalini and garnish with cheese. Serve with lots of crusty bread.