This recipe from The Vegetarian Table: Italy (by Julia Della Croce) is for a Sardinian version of pasta e fagioli. It didn’t look too exciting to me. I like all the ingredients, but there didn’t seem to be anything to give it punch. But a friend told me it was one of his favorite recipes from the cookbook, so I figured I’d give it a try. It turned out it was delicious—much more than the sum of its parts. I have no idea why. Even Derek, who complained bitterly about me making soup again, liked it a lot.
- 2 1/2 cups chickpeas, rinsed and drained [I used two 16-ounce cans, which ended up being a bit more]
- 3 Tbs. olive oil
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 large clove garlic, chopped
- 2 Tbs. plus 1 tsp. chopped fresh Italian parsley [I used thyme instead, but didn’t measure it]
- 1 large bulb fennel, stalks and fronds removed, cored, and thinly sliced crosswise (about 2 cups) [reserve fronds for later]
- 3 Tbs. minced fresh fennel fronds
- 1 large boiling or baking potato, peeled and cut into small dice
- 2 cups peeled, seeded, and chopped fresh or canned plum tomatoes
- 2 Tbs. salt [I used much, much less]
- 1/4 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
- 6 cups water, boiling
- 1 cup ditalini pasta [I used a mini shell pasta made with 25% pumpkin and carrots]
- 1/4 cup coarsely grated or shredded fior di Sardegna or other mild sheep’s milk cheese, plus extra for the table [I used a not-too-aged pecorino]
- In a 4- to 5-quart pot, heat the oil. Add the onion, garlic, and 2 Tbs. of parsley; cover and cook gently, stirring occasionally until the vegetables are lightly colored, about 5 minutes. Remove the cover and ad the fennel bulb and fronds and potato and saute for an additional 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes, 1 Tbs. salt, pepper, and chickpeas and boiling water. Stir well, cover, and cook for ten minutes over medium heat.
- Add the pasta and another 1 Tbs. of salt, and continue to simmer, uncovered, until the pasta is just tender. (See pasta package for timing.)
- Stir in the final 1 tsp. of parsley and 1/4 cup of cheese. Serve with additional cheese at the table.
She also describes a variation with rosemary. When you add the tomatoes you also add 1 heaping Tbs. of tomato paste. Increase the water to 7 cups. Crush half the chicpeas with a potato masher or blender. When you add the boiling water stir in 1 Tbs. chopped fresh rosemary leaves or 1 tsp. dried rosemary.
If you make this soup ahead of time, wait to add the pasta, as it will end up overcooked. Also, if you intend to freeze this soup, freeze it before adding the pasta.
I didn’t have any fresh parsley so I added a bunch of recently home-dried thyme instead. The only other change I made was reducing the salt. (The recipe calls for 2 Tbs. of salt, and serves 6!)
I liked the soup a lot, even without the cheese. The broth is surprisingly flavorful, and the chickpeas, potato, and fennel add lots of different textures. The pasta was good too. On the first day it seemed like there was very little pasta, but on the second day the pasta had swollen up so much I could no longer tell I had used mini shells. They were huge! I had to add more water as well, since the pasta (and potatoes?) had absorbed so much.
Derek said the soup was tasty and very satisfying: B+