I loved this soup. It's another classic example of fresh, Italian cooking where simple preparation becomes fabulous.
If you can't find borlotti beans, substitute canellini beans.
UPDATE 11/18/10: I found dried cranberry beans at the grocery store! They are Bob's Red Mill brand. I'm excited to make this again using the dried beans.
Pasta e Fagioli
from Rachel Eats
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium red onion very finely diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 small chili very finely chopped
1 medium carrot very finely diced
1 stick celery with leaves very finely diced
a sprig of fresh rosemary or 1 tsp. dried rosemary
1 cup of peeled, deseeded and chopped tomatoes (fresh or canned)
16 oz. shelled fresh or canned borlotti (cranberry beans) or 5 oz. dried beans
4 c. water
a parmesan rind
salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 oz. dried pasta (small shells work well)
If using dried beans, see note below. For fresh or canned beans, start the recipe here:
In a large heavy based pan warm the oil and add the onion and garlic; gently saute until soft and transparent. Add the celery, carrot, chili and rosemary. Stir once or twice to coat with oil, and then allow to cook gently for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add the tomatoes, stir and leave to bubble away gently for another 10 minutes.
Add the beans, stir to coat them thoroughly and then add the water and parmesan rind. Cover the pan and bring to a gentle boil and then turn down the heat cook the soup at a lively simmer for about 30 – 40 minutes or until the beans are fully tender. Canned beans will only need about 20 minutes.
Remove the parmesan rind and the rosemary. Puree about half of the soup using an immersion blender. Season the soup with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Check the soup for density, it should be liquid enough to cook the pasta in, so you may need to add a little more water. Bring the soup to a steady, moderate boil and add the pasta. Check the pasta package for boiling time. Stir occasionally while pasta is cooking. Stop cooking once the pasta is tender but firm to the bite.
Allow the soup to sit and settle for about 10 minutes before serving. Serve with a dribble of extra virgin olive oil and some freshly grated parmesan if you like.
If using dried beans: Soak them for 12 hours or overnight. Drain, cover with fresh water and cook for about 1 and a half hours or until they are nearly cooked (subtract 30 minutes from your usual cooking time), they will finish cooking in the soup. Drain and set aside.