Monday, March 5, 2012

The I-wish-I-was-Italian post

I do wish that I was Italian.  I wish that I had spent my childhood in the kitchen, watching little grannies mixing the best meatball, rolling the best pasta, drinking red wine in little glasses, and of course speaking Italian.  It sounds so romantic, and I'm sure it's tied to every re-airing of the Godfather since my youth.  I'm aware that my nostalgic view of the Italian culture is the fault of Hollywood and, I'm ok with that.

A couple of nights ago I stared at a head of cabbage and a few Italian sausages in my fridge and thought, "Mmmm, Pasta e fagioli."  Now for those who are not familiar, Pasta e fagioli, or pasta fazool in America, is an Italian soup of pasta and beans.  I've had a few versions in the past, but I have one favorite that I made years ago.  Unfortunately I haven't made it in years, and as many of you know, I'm allergic to recipes.  So I had to summon the great and powerful forces of I-can't-remember-how-the-heck-I-made-that and hope it came out right.  I started by flipping through books and trolling the internet, hoping it would jog my memory.  Shockingly I couldn't find what I wanted!  So I just got started and hoped to remember, and not need to make too many mid-soup store runs.

I began with onion, garlic, and rosemary and softened them all.  Then I added in the sausage, I used sweet Italian but spicy would be nice too, and made sure to get some nice color on the meat.  This is THE ONLY time you can add flavor and texture to the meat, because once the liquid goes in fugetaboutit.  I apologize for the Donnie Brasco reference.  

In go the bay leaf, carrots and celery until soft and then the tomatoes.  I used diced and fire-roasted.  I just love fire roasted veggies!  It adds so much, especially when we're dealing with something canned.  I also added the chopped cabbage in at this point.

I let it bubble away for just a few minutes and then added my liquid that I had on hand.  That's right.  Water.  Good old H2 of O.  I knew I was developing a lot of flavors with the sausage and roasted tomatoes, and I didn't want to overpower them with salty stock.  Now, if I'd had some wine on hand, that would have happened!

THIS IS WHERE I REMEMBERED SOMETHING.  I didn't have a Parmesan rind.  Parmesan rinds are not good to eat, but they have an amazing amount of flavor.  When you have one leftover save it!  It's fantastic in any soup, pasta sauce, I mean my mind is racing now.  But I didn't have one, so I would just dump on extra grated at the end.

I simmered the soup for 30 minutes, and in the last 10-15 I added in the pasta and beans.  I like half Cannellini beans, and half kidney beans.  As for the pasta, small is best, something like tubettini, and I never pre-cook it!  Nothing is worse than a bowl full of great tasting soup, filled with pasta mush.  The uncooked pasta cooks in the last few minutes of the soup, and it takes on the flavor of it too.  Of course I hadn't remembered tubettini, so I was stuck with an over-sized rigatoni.

I garnished each bowl with grated parmesan and a scoop of pesto.  You can buy the pesto or make it, either is fine because you just stir it in.

It tasted phenomenal, regardless of my tubettini & parm rind omissions.  Next time....I won't forget!

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