Archive | January, 2012

On the pulse, part four: pasta e fagioli vs winter blues

16 Jan

Soup, pasta or stew? Irrelevant: it's delicious.


So today is allegedly the most depressing day of the year aka Blue Monday. Indeed, one BBC Scotland piece seemed to suggest that the combo of season and current financial uncertainty had created a candidate for the most miserable day ever.

I’m not sure I buy into any of this babble – I find much of the first six weeks or so of the year can be equally numbing. But with post-Christmas gloom and belt tightening on many people’s minds, genuine austerity cooking in Greece making international news and this blog recently looking at UK food poverty, it seemed appropriate to feature a dish that’ll give the winter blues a robust poke in the eye – owing both to the minimal impact it’ll make on your scrawny January wallet, and the fact that it’s healthy, tastes shit-hot and warms you up.

Culled and lightly adapted from Nadine Abensur’s ever-useful Crank’s Bible, this pasta e fagioli recipe packs in all the best aspects of a pasta dish (obviously), a soup and a stew.

There are many other variations to be found adding bacon, spinach or using different kinds of beans or pasta; strictly speaking you should be using dried beans, as this Telegraph recipe does, but for speed I’ve used tinned ones here. Either way, there are few more comforting meals to turn to during the darkest time of the year.

You will need:

  • 2 cans borlotti beans
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 leek, sliced
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 4 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 tsp dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp dried rosemary
  • A few fresh basil or sage leaves
  • 600ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • 1 medium potato, chopped
  • 1 stick celery, chopped
  • 200g pasta – small soup pasta are best but any short pasta will do
  • 2 tomatoes, cut in six pieces
  • Salt and pepper

To prepare:

  • Fry leek and onion gently until softened before adding all other vegetables. Continue cooking for another few minutes.
  • Add the borlotti beans, dried herbs and stock – you may want to include some of the can liquid from the beans for a thicker result.
  • Simmer for at least 15 minutes; meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente and add along with the chopped tomatoes and fresh herbs.
  • Give it another five minutes, check the seasoning and serve in bowls topped with grated Parmesan and the leaves from your celery, if there are any. Become a few degrees warmer and happier.

[Serves four]