Pasta e fagioli
Source: La Terra Fortunata
Pasta e fagioli, a hearty Italian bean coup, was a dish my grandmother made often when I was a child. So it was fitting that it was my first recipe from the book La Terra Fortunata, which explores the cuisine of the Friuli Venezia-Giulia region of Italy.
This dish was originally a peasant dish, and upon eating it, it’s clear why. The soup is primarily beans and typically vegetarian (though this version uses pancetta for flavour) so it’s very inexpensive. But it’s heavy and satisfying. You could serve a small portion as a first course, but it can just as easily serve as a main course, or an entire meal.
If you want to make the dish vegetarian, you could easily omit the pancetta, but you’ll miss out on the depth of flavour it provides. But either way, this is a great winter soup.
I served this as a second course, following veal tongue.
With a few caveats, the pasta e fagioli recipe from La Terra Fortunata is excellent. First, hold back on the salt. I started with about 1.5 Tbsp salt (versus the 3 Tbsp in the recipe) and that was plenty. Second, while the recipe calls for only a judicious amount of the bean cooking liquid to be returned to the soup, I used a fair bit. Don’t be afraid to do the same.
Finally, at least in my neck of the woods, nobody refers to the beans for this recipe as “cranberry beans” as the recipe specifies. Look instead for “romano beans.” They’re both names for the Italian “borlotti” bean.