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Nothing, and I mean nothing, beats a good bowl of Pasta e Fagioli (pasta and beans in Italian). It's so good. It's just SO good.
My grandmom Biasiello used to make the best "pastancheech" (pasta with ceci
beans) in the world. I would eat three bowls of it, even after I ate dinner.
See, like all Italian families, we lived on the same block as my grandparents, to be more precise, they lived across the street. I'm not ashamed to say I'd figure out what each house was having for dinner and decide where I was eating that night. Sometimes, if I liked both dinners, I'd eat TWICE. But I would NEVER let my step-mother know I was ditching her dinner for my grandmother's. Although, I'm pretty sure she knew.
So, I'd find out Grandmom was making pastancheech and I'd literally wait patiently while she grated cheese on it for me and slurp it up like it was nobody's business.
Fortunately for me, I'd watch her make EVERYTHING and I learned how to duplicate her recipe without her ever giving me one. She didn't have a lot of recipes, in fact no one in my family does. We just "know".
So here it is, unaltered and in loving memory of my Grandmom, Irene Lumina Biasiello.
My Grandpop and Grandmom Biasiello in 1979
Pasta e Fagioli
3/4 lb of ditalini pasta
1 28 oz can of whole peeled tomatoes
1 can of Ceci beans (garbanzo or chick peas)
3 cloves garlic, chopped
1 onion, diced
1 tsp peperoncini or red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf
7-10 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
salt and pepper to taste
few slices of DAY OLD italian bread
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly ground black pepper
2-3 fresh garlic cloves, whole and peeled
Fresh basil julienned
2 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
3 tsp of red wine vinegar
dash onion powder
dash garlic powder
1/2 tsp of dried basil
1 tsp of dried parsley
Kosher salt and Black pepper to taste
Grab a heavy bottomed soup or large suace pot. Throw about 3 TBSP of EVOO in there and let it heat up. Drop in your peperoncini and toast them up.
Dice up 1 whole onion and chop three cloves of garlic. Throw them in the pot with a pinch of salt to break down the onions and sautee until translucent.
Next, open and drain the can of Ceci beans. Add them to the pot and toast them up slightly. Add some black pepper and salt.
Open and dump your peeled tomatoes into a bowl, and using the immersion blender, puree the tomatoes until completely smooth. (If you don't have an immersion blender, you can use the regular blender or even a food processor). Add the puree to the pot. Your flame should be on medium high heat.
Stir, and then add enough water the pot so that just about 2-3 inches remains from the top of the pot. I like to use hot water so the temperature of the "pastancheech" doesn't go down.
At this point, add your basil, your bay leaf and a palm full of dried parsley. You may also want to taste for salt at this point. Once you have added your seasonings and tasted for salt, place a lid on the "pastancheech" and bring to a boil.
While your pasta is coming to a boil, preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Slice your day old bread and lay out on your board. Drizzle olive oil over the bread and spread it with a pastry brush. Sprinkle some salt and pepper on the bread. Do this to both sides.
Place crostini DIRECTLY on the oven rack. This ensures that you don't need to flip and that the bread gets toasty on all sides.
By this time, your "pastancheech" should have come to a boil. At this point you want to stir in 3/4 of a pound of ditalini. I prefer Colavita or DeCecco brand. They are nice and startchy. Once you have added your pasta, remove the lid, turn the heat down to medium low and let the pasta cook. This should take about 15-20 minutes total. Remember to stir frequently, cause the pasta will stick to the bottom.
While your pasta is cooking, chop up some lettuce and veggies for your salad and do the vinegarette. Don't waste time doing the vinegarette separately just add it all to the bowl and toss together.
Check your crostini!! You don't want them to burn. Oh they didn't? Good.
Now while they are still hot (your fingers are gonna burn, sorry), rub the crostini with a whole garlic clove. You will literally feel the garlic melting down on to the bread. You may need a few cloves depending on how many slices of bread you used. Once you have rubbed the garlic on your bread, finish off with some julienned fresh basil. Feel free to sprinkle on some cheese too. I do. You can never have too much cheese in your life.
At this point, your pasta should be tender and you are ready to serve!!
I like to spoon my "pastancheech" into bowls and sprinkle parmiggiano all over the top.
Serve with your crostini and salad and you have a delicious dinner in about 30 minutes!! Pasta e Fagioli lasts for a few days too, and it's even better the next day. So take it into the office and make everyone jealous. I know I do. :-)
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Hope you enjoy this recipe and make a meal out of it. I know my son and I do.
The Rotund Chef