Pasta Fagioli recipe is very popular in Italy, and every region owns its local variation. The Venetian version of the bean soup is one of the most ancient and rich in history. Traditionally the Venetian Pasta Fagioli is strongly linked with the annual ritual of the slaughter of the pigs. For centuries Pasta Fagioli has fed the farmers families, reusing the cheap cuts of pork. Nowadays, the Venetian Pasta a Fagioli is considered a classic of the Italian cuisine either in its traditional recipe and reinvented by famous contemporary Chefs. Here the recipe and history, don’t miss it!
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ORIGIN OF VENETIAN PASTA FAGIOLI
The Italian Bean soup with pasta has very old roots. Since the time of the Roman Empire, it was common prepare Pasta Fagioli with the only variety of beans known at that time: the black eye peas, imported from West Africa.
The Pasta Fagioli as we know it nowadays comes with the discovery of America, and the importation of the American beans started since the first years of the XVI Century. The Pope Clement VII (born Giulio de’ Medici) introduced the new beans since 1528, at first in Tuscany and the Papal States, then in Veneto where the canon Pietro Valeriano started the plantation of beans in the countryside around Belluno.
In the beginning, the “new” American beans like Borlotti or Cannellini where exclusively served on the tables of rich people and nobles, while the poor and working class kept going to eat the “old” black eye peas. Over the years, the use of the black eye peas felt into disuse, and now in almost all the region of Italy Pasta Fagioli is prepared with the American beans.
PIGS, BEANS, AND FARMERS RITUALS
In Veneto, Pasta Fagioli is strongly linked with the ritual of the killing of the pigs. The 17 of January, the feast of Sant’Antonio Abate, is the day of the slaughter of the pig. Since a long time, the families of the Venetian farmers get together organizing big gatherings where the pigs are sacrificed and processed.
In ancient times, the prime cuts of the animal were set aside for the wealthy families. The farmers use to save the remaining parts like trotters, rinds, for their families. These cut were eaten immediately or smoked.
One of the most popular dishes of the feast of the pig has always been Pasta Fagioli, flavored with the cheap cuts of the pigs, and potatoes.
PORK CUTS AND PASTA FAGIOLI
Nowadays, the use of the cheap part of pigs is becoming less and less popular. Besides the purists that continue to prefer the pork trotters and rinds into Pasta Fagioli, several chefs prefer to use diced pancetta and/or prosciutto crudo.
Considering that in the past times the use of smoked pork cuts was a common option, bacon, even if not traditional, is a tasty chance.
Traditionally, rosemary and bay leaves are the basic herbs for Venetian Pasta Fagioli. Fresh and minced parsley is commonly added, particularly during the mild season.
PASTA FAGIOLI TIPS
DRIED OR CANNED BEANS? – Dried beans are absolutely the best option. But if you are short on time, consider using canned beans.
WHEN SALT? – You want to salt the bean soup at the very end; otherwise, the salt will harden the skin of the beans.
SAVE THE BEANS WATER – Save the water used to boil dried beans or the liquid of the canned beans. It will give more flavor to the pasta!
WHAT KIND OF PASTA? – The most traditional shape of pasta is Maltagliati: egg dough irregular patches made with the scraps of the pastry used to prepare Tagliatelle. Another option is broken Italian Pappardelle. Finally, little pasta shapes like Ditalini, Orzo, Lumachine or Elbow, pairs perfectly with the bean soup.
PREPARING PASTA FAGIOLI IN ADVANCE – the day after the beans soup is even better! Just prepare the Pasta Fagioli in advance, then reheat over low flame stirring occasionally, and adding more broth if necessary. Finally, cook and add the pasta, then rest 15 minutes and serve!
VENETIAN PASTA FAGIOLI RECIPE
- 1.5 Lb (680 g) dried "Borlotti" Cranberry beans (alternatively, Pinto beans)
- 7 oz (200 g) cured pancetta (alternatively, read the paragraph above "PORK CUTS AND PASTA FAGIOLI")
- 5.5 oz (150 g) pasta
- 2 (330 g) big onion
- 1 carrot
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 tbsp double concentrated tomato paste
- 2 (700g) medium potatoes, peeled
- 1 sprig rosemary
- 1 tbsp fresh parsley (optional)
- 4 bay leaves
- 3 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
- 1/2 cup white wine (best if Prosecco)
- 1/2 tsp black pepper
- to taste table salt
- PREPARING DRIED BEANS
First of all, rinse the beans under running water, and pour them into a glass bowl. After that, submerge the beans with abundant water and soak for at least 12 hours up to 15 hours.
Now, peel and cut an onion into quarters. After that, rinse the beans again, and simmer them along with the onion and 2 bay leaves for about 90 mins until tender but still in shape. Discard the foam that emerges, particularly the first few minutes of simmering.
Finally, raise the beans, discard the onion quarters and the bay leaves, and save the bean broth.
- CANNED BEANS
To save time or if dried beans are not available, use canned beans. Consider that 1 Lb of dried beans corresponds to 3 Lb of canned beans.
- PASTA FAGIOLI SOFFRITTO
While the beans are simmering, let's prepare the soffritto!
First, peel and mince a big onion the carrot; then, mince the celery stalks. Finally, mince the Pancetta.
Pour the Pancetta along with 1 tbsp of extra-virgin olive oil in a thick-bottomed heavy pot big enough to cook the Pasta Fagioli. Place the pot over medium/low heat, and stir-fry until crispy. At this point, baste with the white wine, then raise the flame a bit and let the alcoholic part of the wine evaporate.
Now, add the minced onion, carrot, and celery, along with the rosemary and 2 bay leaves, then stir-fry until soft and translucent. Then, add the tomato paste, stir-fry 5 minutes more. Eventually, add the beans.
- SLOW COOKING BEAN SOUP
Now, add the bean broth: the liquid have to flush with the beans. Now bring to simmer, then cover and set the heat again: you want the bean soup gently simmer under the lid.
If you opted for canned beans, use the liquid of the beans mixed with water or a light vegetable broth.
Cook 1 hour, occasionally checking the soup if it needs more broth.
Now, raise about half of the beans with a slotted spoon, and place them in a bowl. Discard the rosemary sprig and the bay leaves, then blend with a food processor the remaining soup until smooth and consistent.
At this point, peel and chop the potatoes, then pour them into the soup along with the whole beans. Keep cooking until the potatoes are done, but still in shape, then salt to taste.
- PASTA AND BEAN SOUP
Just before serving, fill a pot with water and the remaining broth, then add salt to taste and boil the pasta. Once cooked, raise the pasta and pour it into the soup. Rest the Pasta Fagioli 15 minutes then serve, completing with fresh parsley, black pepper and extra-virgin olive oil as needed.
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