Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Pasta with Pancetta and Beans

Pasta and beans, or pasta e fagioli, is a traditional Italian dish. It is hearty and inexpensive to make as it does not typically contain meat. I love the salty, chewy bits of pancetta in my version though. Sometimes it is served thick like a pasta dish, but it is mostly featured on restaurant menus in the U.S. as a soup. I prefer the former.

5.2 ounces/150 grams pancetta (Italian dry-cured bacon), diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 yellow onion, finely chopped
2 carrots, sliced
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 tablespoon Italian seasoning
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon black pepper
1 (19 ounce) can of red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 (19 ounce) can of cannellini (white kidney) beans, drained and rinsed
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 jar (24 ounces/700 grams) passata (strained tomatoes)
4 cups cold water
8 ounces of small pasta, such as penne rigate
Grated parmesan, to serve

In a large pot, over medium heat, cook the pancetta for 5 minutes. It should be browned and the fat should have rendered. Remove the pancetta from the pan and set aside on paper towels to drain. Reserve a tablespoon of fat in the pan for the vegetables.

Add the garlic and onions to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes before adding the carrots and celery. Allow this to cook an additional 8 minutes. While the vegetables are cooking, start adding the seasoning, salt, black pepper. As the vegetables release moisture, scrape the browned bits from the bottom of the pan.

Add the beans, lemon juice, passata and water. Stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil before reducing to simmer. Cook for 30 minutes. Stir in the pasta; cook for 10-12 minutes, or until cooked through.

Garnish with grated parmesan.

Serves 6

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