A long time ago there was a comedian who used to do a recurring skit where he would exuberantly mention a little known food at the time called Pasta Fazool and the audience would roar with laughter. Years later I learned it was the Neapolitan pronunciation for Pasta e Fagioli, a wonderful, stick to your ribs, thick soupy dish with tons of flavour. Fagioli (beans) sounds like ” fa Zhole” so it’s easy to see how the slang fazool came about. But any way you look at it, its good to eat.
There are a lot of ways to make pasta fazool, but I think closest to the original way is best. Since it was a peasant dish, it didn’t often have meat in it unless it was some leftover scraps. Not everybody used tomato in it, although many people used leftover Sunday sauce as a base. You could cut down on the celery, use more carrot, and even put ham or other meats in it if you choose to. It is very good without any meat.
Pasta Fazool is a very simple, hearty dish, soupy enough to be served in bowls rather than on plates.
4 ounces diced bacon (you can omit this, will still be great)
¼ cup of olive oil IF omitting bacon
1 small onion chopped finely, about ½ a cup
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 stalk of celery, diced
1 medium carrot, diced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper, optional but nice
1 cup of canned tomatoes, diced or pureed
8 ounces of white beans (Great Northern, Michigan Whites or Cannelini) soaked overnight or quick soaked by boiling for two minutes and letting sit in water 1 hour. Drain prior to using
1-quart chicken stock
1 ½ tablespoon fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
1 cup of small pasta, I use ditalini
salt and pepper to taste
Grated parmesan cheese to sprinkle over filled bowls
Fry the bacon, stirring occasionally until nicely browned in a dutch oven or soup pot. Remove the fried bacon and reserve 2 tablespoons of the fat. Add I tablespoon olive oil to the pot. If not using bacon add the ¼ cup of olive oil now instead. Add the next four or five ingredients and fry gently till tender, 5 to 10 minutes.
Put in the next four ingredients and simmer for about 40 minutes. (Taste a bean for tenderness). Check liquid levels and add water as needed.
Now put in the pasta and cook until it is just slightly firm, called al dente. Taste to test.
When it is cooked, take off the heat and put in the parsley. Let it sit a minute while you get ready.
Dish it out and let the diners put plenty of parmesan atop their bowls. Offer a little olive oil to each bowl as well.
Come on paisano give it a try; you’ll be saying “Mangia Mangia” right away.