In Italy there are a lot of “pasta e fagioli” variations (“fasule” means fagioli, beans, in neapolitan dialect), most of them are real soups, but the one made in Naples area is different, it’s much more thicker and differently than for all the others the pasta is boiled inside the beans soup and not in a different pot.
This detail will keep all the starch of the pasta inside the “soup”, making it creamy and thicker. Moreover, for the best results are often used some of the famous pasta from Gragnano (a village near Naples very famous for the pasta), which is usually richer in starch than most of the other industrial pasta, that helps to reach the right texture.
It’s a simple dish, with clearly poor origins, and as most of the traditional recipes of the old peasant culture it’s very tasty and delicious 🙂
I will show the simplest version, but you have to know that it’s not uncommon to add also pork rinds, and especially in summer there is even a version where also Mediterranean mussels are added.
Some details: you can use the pasta you prefer, but as I said the best choice is with any doubt some pasta from Gragnano (also abroad is available), they also sell packages with mixed short pasta, otherwise you can also break some by hands, or just choose a short type, the one you prefer. Mixed pasta is to prefer, not because of taste but because of the look and because of the tradition 🙂 but also just one type of pasta can be ok.
For the beans, the “cannellini” and the “borlotti” are probably the most common choice in Naples, but simply choose the ones you like better 🙂
INGREDIENTS (4 people):
- 250 g of dry beans (cooked they will easily double the weight)
- 250-300 g of mix short pasta (but if you can’t get it also just one type is good, for example ditalini/ditaloni, broken bucatini or broken mafaldine)
- half onion (white or golden)
- 1 clove of garlic
- 1 rib of celery
- 100 ml of tomato sauce
- 50 g of lardo (if you want to make it vegan/vegetarian use just oil, but the lardo gives a much better taste 😉 )
- 1 small chili
- extra virgin olive oil, 4 tablespoons about
- freshly ground black pepper (optional)
- First of all, the evening before put the dry beans in a bowl with a lot of water, and let them inside for 12 hours.
- After the 12 hours drain the beans, then take a high pot and start boiling the beans with about 3 liters of water, it will take about 1 hour and half/2 hours to be ready, you’ll see. During this time remove with a perforated spoon the foam that will appear on the surface. Add the salt just in the last minutes, and boil at low heat.
- Once the beans are ready, take a cocotte/casserole, or in any case a high pot, and heat the oil, then add the garlic.
- At the same time (or before, how you prefer 🙂 ) cut the lardo into thin slices and then hit it multiple times with the blade of a thick knife (the one to break bones is perfect) until you obtain a cream, then add it to the oil and melt it slowly.
- Chop the onion and the celery in small pieces and add it to the oil too, and let them to brown for about 10 minutes at low heat. Remove the garlic when it gets some color.
- Then add the tomato sauce (it’s only 100 ml because we just need some color but not too much acidity), a ladle of the beans boiling water and let it simmer for other 10 minutes.
- At this point drain the beans from their water (but don’t throw it away!) and drop them in the other pot with the sauce, add some more of their water and add also the chili cut in small pieces. Control if it’s salty enough and let everything boil together for 5/10 minutes more.
- Now control if there is enough liquid to boil the pasta, otherwise add some more boiling water of the beans and finally add the pasta. Boil at medium heat. The liquid has to be exactly enough, not too much, when the pasta is ready you must be able to stand a spoon inside the pot, as you see below 🙂
- When the pasta is cooked (follow the time on its package) season with just a little bit of freshly ground pepper (optional), then cover the pot and let it rest 5/10 minutes before serving it.
- Serve it in the dishes, add some freshly chopped parsley and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.
- Enjoy! This is a great simple dish, simple but very satisfying 🙂 and if it’s remaining some don’t worry, the day after it tastes great too, someone say even better 🙂
PS: with pasta IGP from Gragnano you don’t need to mix part of the beans to have a creamy texture since we said that pasta is usually very rich in starch, but if you use just some normal pasta you could then mix 1/3 or 1/4 of the beans using an immersion blender.
TIP: if you want to add an extra flavor, at the step number 6 you can add also one or two Parmigiano Reggiano rinds, and you let it simmer together with the other ingredients, it will add a very nice taste 😉
Pasta: mixed pasta from Pastificio Gentile
Extra virgin olive oil: my father’s 🙂