Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli

This soup is a long time favorite, made popular by the Olive Garden chain. Traditional Pasta e Fagioli is not so much a soup, as a hearty bean and pasta dish you could generally eat as a fork. This recipe is a close match to the more americanized soup served in restaurants (minus the chickpeas, since I really don't like chickpeas). I made this soup for a friend's birthday today and had a little "girl luncheon" here at work. I was sure to snap a couple of pictures before gulping it down. I usually prefer the "petit diced" tomatoes, as I don't care for large chunks of tomato in a soup, but I found FIRE ROASTED diced tomatoes at my local grocery yesterday, and, that being a small miracle, I couldn't resist using them today, which naturally, gave the flavor of the soup a slightly different cast.
Pasta e Fagioli
1.5 pounds ground beef

1 large carrot, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
3 cloves garlic, minced (or to taste)

2 cans (14.5 ounces each) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 ounce) tomato sauce
1 12 ounce can V8 (or Bloody Mary mix if you have that handy, which I did last night)
1 can kidney beans (I usually don't drain the beans, but last night I did and the soup was much thinner. Not a bad thing, just different)
1 can cannellini or great northern beans with liquid
1 Tablespoon white vinegar
1 tablespoon oregano
1 tablespoon basil
1 teaspoon thyme (or just use an italian seasoning blend for all 3)
½ teaspoon black pepper

½ pound pasta (tubettini, ditalini, small shells or any other small pasta will do)
10 –12 cups beef stock

Cook beef in a LARGE stock pot until just cooked. Drain well and add the carrots, celery, onion, and garlic. Cook about 5 minutes.

Add tomatoes, sauce, V8, both cans of beans, herbs, and 2 cups of the beef stock. Allow to simmer one hour, covered. After 50 minutes, cook the pasta separately (1/2 pound equal ½ box), drain well and add to the stock pot. One cup at a time, add the remaining beef stock until soup reaches desired consistency. Taste for flavor and add any additional herbs needed. Simmer 10 more minutes.

Makes approximately 9 quarts. NOTE: You are going to need a BIG pot for this recipe!
TIP: If you are going to do what I did and cook it the night before, then reheat it for a function the next day, cook the pasta until it is almost done, then rinse it in cold water, toss it with a little olive oil (to keep it from sticking together) and put it in a ziploc bag in the fridge. Add it into the soup before serving. This will keep the pasta from overcooking in the soup and getting mushy.

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