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Monday, January 2, 2012

Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta fajzool) 2012

 In the late part of the 1800's in Prescott, Arizona a young man had just graduated from High School and would later in life become one of the most dynamic and respected mayors in American history. I'm speaking of course of Fiorello LaGuardia.
 Why do I bring this up? He lived through rough times. Rougher than we have it now. He was mayor of New York City during the Great Depression and World War II.
 He cooked poor and ate rich. Here's a quote from his city's newspaper from January 1945.
"A beans and macaroni dish. Scorned by the well-to-do, loved by the poor is healthful and economical."
 He was convinced to publish his wife's recipe. It's legendary.
It's an old tradition to serve beans early in the new year. Here's my recipe for that wonderful stew-like dish of simple ingredients combined and elevated to high honor. Best wishes to you all in 2012.

As an added bonus, how to make chicken stock.

Chicken bones, mirepoix, bay-leaf and parsley stems
 I've mentioned before that you should always save chicken bones to make chicken stock.  Remove wing tips, backs, thigh bones. Save in bags in your freezer, they always come in handy. Today I used up all my frozen stock so I grabbed stuff out of the freezer and 'fridge and made more. If you can boil water, you can make chicken stock. All you need are raw chicken bones (tip, remove any scrap of liver along backs, seriously) mirepoix pronounced meer-pwah (2 part onion, one part celery and carrot, scrap pieces are just dandy), bay leaf and whole pepper corns.
Add cold water to cover, bring to boil slowly.
 As it gets close to a boil you'll notice a yucky, brown , foamy, clump of stuff gather on the surface.
Look at the side of my pot. Remove as much as you can

 It's Albumin protein and it's actually helping you. It binds with any foul and dirty particles still attached to it and now you can remove it. Use a sharp-sided spoon or ladle and send all that scum into the sewer.
 Bring everything to a gentle boil and take back down to simmer. DO NOT DO NOT hard boil your stock, it makes a gross mass of yuck.
strain and reserve

 Once all the vegetables are cooked clear, pour through a strainer and throw away all the solid parts. Freeze stock in plastic containers. It comes in handy.

Chef Nick's Pasta e Fagioli

1 pound dried white beans.
1 can drained and rinsed garbanzo beans. I looked for dried but was unsuccessful.
1 pound dry small pasta
2 medium carrots, small dice
2 ribs celery, small dice
2 large yellow onions, small dice
3-4 slices Bacon cut into chunks
one Zucchini, medium dice
one yellow crook-neck squash, medium dice
2-3 dried Bay-leaf
1 tsp chopped fresh Rosemary
1/4 cup dried Oregano
a good tug of fresh Parsley, chopped
2 TB Tomato paste
half bottle of dry white wine
chicken stock
1 pound of mild Italian sausage. Slice into chunks and cook off separately, set aside for now
Kosher salt and fresh cracked black pepper

Dump the dried beans into a colander and wash thoroughly under cold water. Remove any stones or weird shaped beans

In a large pot cover beans with cold water and bring to a solid boil, remove from heat and let sit for at least 40 minutes.
In the meantime:

cook off the sausage, slice into 1/2 inch chunks, use a small pan, remove and set aside for now.

On a large cutting board gather your carrots, celery, garlic and onion. Grab a sharp knife, slice and dice. Small dice bitches.

Alongside chop up your bacon. The Italians call this a Battuto. It's the base for most soups and sauces.
knife skills

Keep chopping up this mess, use the flat side of the blade to gather up and chop again until it looks like this:

Heat up a large, deep pot. Once hot, add a drizzle of olive oil and then the battuto with a big pinch of salt and pepper. Sweat thru. Add dried Oregano and Bay-leaf. 

Add the Tomato paste and toss around until it starts smelling sweet. 

add all the beans, toss around until hot and then pour in the wine. 
keep stirring like crazy

Add enough chicken stock to cover everything by at least 2 inches. Bring back to a boil and add all squash. 

Bring up to simmer for an hour or so. Check beans by grabbing one with a spoon and smearing it between your fingers. If it spreads like peanut-butter with no resistance, it's done. Add the sausage. 

Bring back to a gentle boil and add the pasta

Once cooked through, serve up and eat up. Garnish with some grated Asiago or Parmesan. True stick to your ribs food. 

For 2012. I pray all of you much joy and good-fortune

Go get your grub on. 

CIAO !! 


  1. This really sounds delicious and I know I'd love to have a bowl. I hope you had a great holiday, Nick. Have a wonderful evening. Blessings...Mary