by - 5:28 AM

Whether you are Italian or not, you have certainly heard of pasta fazool—every
region of Italy (and there are twenty) makes its own version of pasta e fagioli, and I
would venture to say that every Italian American household has cooked pasta e
fagioli at one time or other. This soup has the credentials to be the representative
dish of Italian cuisine. It’s one you must try.
The soup freezes well, but keep in mind that you should cook and add the pasta
just before serving.
1 pound dried cannellini (white kidney) beans
6 quarts water
3 large Idaho potatoes (about 1¾ pounds), peeled
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 fresh bay leaves, or 3 dried
12 slices bacon, cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces (about 1 cup)
4 cloves garlic, peeled
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling over the soup
1 medium onion, chopped (between 1 and 1½ cups)
2 medium carrots, peeled and coarsely shredded (about 1 cup)
2 cups canned Italian plum tomatoes (preferably San Marzano), crushed by hand or
with a food mill, with their liquid
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 pound ditalini, or 3 cups elbow pasta
Freshly grated Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Cold-soak the beans in advance: Dump them into a 2-to-3-quart container, and pour in
enough cold water to cover them by at least 4 inches. Let soak in a cool place at least 8
hours or up to 24 hours. Drain well.
Pour the 6 quarts water into a tall, large (at least 10-quart) pot. Add the drained
beans, potatoes, rosemary, and bay leaves. Bring to a rolling boil over high heat, then
adjust the heat to maintain a gentle boil. Let cook while preparing the sautéed
Process the bacon and garlic to a paste in a food processor, stopping once or twice to
scrape down the sides of the bowl. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat, then
scrape in the bacon-garlic paste and cook, stirring, until golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in
the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent, about 4 minutes. Stir in the carrots and
cook until the onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the crushed tomatoes, bring
to a boil, then lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes.
Pour two ladlefuls of the bean-cooking water into the skillet and bring to a boil, then
pour the contents of the skillet back into the soup pot. Season lightly with salt and
pepper, and bring to a slow boil. Cook until the beans are tender, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Ladle about one-third of the beans, along with enough cooking liquid to cover them,
into a baking dish or other shallow container where they will cool quickly. Let the beans
sit until no longer steaming. (Wait until the beans cool completely before blending or
processing; hot beans can cause splatters. If you must, you can stir the beans a bit to
speed up the cooling process.) Process the beans and liquid in a food processor or
blender until creamy. Return the puréed beans to the pot.
Fish out the potatoes to a plate, mash them coarsely with a fork, and return them to
the pot. Cook the soup another 10 minutes to give the flavors a chance to blend. Let the
soup rest off the heat, covered, 10 to 15 minutes.
While the soup is resting, cook the ditalini or elbow pasta in salted water until very al
dente. Drain thoroughly, and stir into the soup. Let all rest for 5 minutes, then serve in
warm soup bowls, with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of Grana Padano
or Parmigiano-Reggiano.

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