My father made the BEST pasta fagioli in the world! He had the perfect combination of herbs and spices, white beans and kidney beans, pasta and meat. Unfortunately, he never passed the recipe down to us, but I have been trying to reproduce the taste that I miss from my youth.
I have discovered that using fresh herbs produces a much more robust taste and aroma so I recommend only using fresh herbs when possible.
I prefer canned beans and I like a mixture of cannelloni and fancy red kidney beans. I tried using regular chicken broth but it made the outcome way too salty. Now I use only low sodium broth and add salt liberally.
I brought a pot over to my nephew Andrew's house for a little Christmas soiree' he had in December of 2009. His mother-in-law, Marsha, really enjoyed the soup and asked for the recipe, which I happily agreed to share via email. Well, it's been a year and I never sent it; so I'm going to post it here. I hope someone will direct it to her.
The recipe below will make a giant pot.
9 large cloves Garlic pressed
3 T extra virgin olive oil
2 finely diced or shredded med carrots
3 ribs finely diced or shredded celery
1 finely diced large sweet onion
1/2 lb. smoked pork shoulder cut into 1/2" cubes
1/4 Cup fresh chopped basil (2T dried)
2 T fresh oregano (1T dried)
1 t fresh rosemary (1/2 t dried)
2 bay leaves
1/2 Cup finely chopped Italian parsley
2 19oz cans white cannelloni beans
1 35oz can fancy red kidney beans
2 Qt. Low sodium chicken broth
1 small can tomato paste
1 lb ditalini pasta
1 cup finely grated parmigiano reggiano cheese
Coat the bottom of a large heated stock pot with 2T olive oil. Cut the pork but into 1/2" cubes and add all at once to the pot on medium heat and stirring often to coat the meat on all sides and render some of the fat. Remove the pork and save.
Lower the heat, add the remaining oil and the carrots and celery with a couple of pinches of kosher salt stirring often. When the carrots get soft, add the onions and keep stirring until they are translucent then add the chopped garlic, basil, oregano and rosemary with another pinch of salt. Stir and let the flavors mingle making sure the garlic doesn't brown (about 1 to 2 min) then add one entire 19 oz can of beans including the liquid.
Open the second can of white beans and either mash them or use an immersion blender in its own fluid then add to the pot. Add the large can of red kidney beans. Add at least a cup of red dry wine. I like using chianti and I use two cups. Add the pork shoulder that was set aside earlier, the chicken broth, the can of tomato paste, and the parsley. Bring mixture to a slow rumbling boil, then back it down and let it simmer for a couple of hours stirring occasionally. Add salt and fresh cracked black pepper to taste.
By this time your kitchen should smell like an Italian restaurant and anyone who comes near it will be smiling and asking "what's for dinner?"
In a separate pot make the pasta according to the maker's recommendation, adding some olive oil and kosher salt, but stop short about two minutes before al dente. Drain but do not rinse.
Add the pasta to the soup three to five minutes before you are ready to serve. This will give the pasta a chance to finish cooking. Ladle into bowls and top with the cheese and a few drops of olive oil.
I hope you get a chance to try my recipe. If you like it please send me a comment. If you don't like it, don't tell me.