I have started and restarted this post about 10 times in the last 5 days. For some reason I haven’t been able to find the words to match this dish. Finally, as I tried again this morning, I decided that I wasn’t going to worry about finding the right words, because many times, there are no right words, there are only feelings.
On the days that leave you feeling heavy, this dish is there, ready to make up for whatever you may be lacking. It’s a dish that has the incredible power to make you feel home.
The tomato sauce helps thicken the broth, to make it feel more like a pasta dish than a soup. By the time the ditalini has finished cooking in the broth, it has soaked in all of the flavor of the tomatoes and herbs, leaving the tastes to blend into a full bodied meal. This is a dish that is so saturated with memories, feelings and flavors, that is better tried and tasted than any written word could do it justice.
Pasta Beans (Pasta Fagioli)
(My great-grandmother never really wrote exact amounts, a lot of her recipe is from “taste,” so that being said, if it doesn’t taste right, fix it…)
*The original recipe does not call for diced tomatoes or sausage. I added those this time. Feel free to make it with or without. You can make this dish as the original recipe intended, vegetarian.
*1 lb Italian sausage (mild or hot is fine) (optional, you can keep this dish vegetarian if you’d like).
1 small/medium yellow onion, minced
2 cloves minced garlic
1 lb Ditalini
*1 15 oz can diced tomatoes (this is optional)
1 15-oz can red kidney beans, undrained (if you use the diced tomatoes and sausage, you may drain these).
2 small cans tomato sauce (15 oz) or 1 large can (32 oz)
2 tbsp. olive oil
About 1 tbsp. oregano, either fresh or dried (to taste)
Handful of fresh basil (you can use about a Tbsp. of dried)
Handful of fresh Italian parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
- Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil over medium heat, in a medium/large saucepan.
- Add sausage, if using, and brown. Remove sausage to a plate and set aside.
- Add onion to heated pan and allow to sauté and become translucent. You may need to add a Tbsp. more oil. Once the onion is mostly transparent, add the garlic and saute for about 30 more seconds, until fragrant.
- When the garlic and onion are soft, add two cans of tomato sauce, oregano, salt, pepper, basil and parsley. You may add the sausage back in at this point.
- Simmer over medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes (you can leave it on low after that).
- Pour red kidney beans into the tomato sauce mixture and stir, allowing the flavors to combine another 5 or so minutes.
- If the sauce is too thick, you can add 1/4 can of water to thin it out. I prefer mine a little thicker.
- Meanwhile, boil ditalini. I always leave mine al dente (or even a little underdone) because they will continue to cook in the sauce, later.
- When the ditalini are cooked, drain leaving enough water to just cover the pasta. I like to leave the water line just above the first row of noodles.
- Pour tomato sauce mixture over pasta and mix well. I leave mine covered and let the flavors combine before serving.
- Serve with your favorite grated cheese (either parmesan or Pecorino Romano) and crusty bread.
- *Final note: Keep in mind, because the ditalini never leave the water they were boiled in, they do continue to cook, so more water/tomato sauce mixture is better. The ditalini have a tendency to soak up all the moisture.