You know that food you love? The one that is so everyday, common place, so simple, but so very good. You make it all the time, and eat it joyfully. It rescues you from every grey day, every brain cloud. It is perfect and it knows how to tackle your mood. It totally gets you. But, that amazing dish itself is misunderstood. Often because it is not made right, not faithfully, or with love and care.
Pasta e Fagioli is one of those dishes. Carbs and beans? CARBS AND BEANS?! Why is everyone so harsh about the carbs these days? They are delicious, and soothing, and yes, I do eat too much of them, but how can I not? They are pasta, sourdough bread, udon noodles. All of the most delicious things that soothe my week. I eat well, I don’t eat processed food (except for occasional crisp and haribo based lapses), I feel no guilt. Why should I? Carbs are ok folks. Just relax and enjoy your dinner. Life is hard enough without removing the carbs from it.
If people only knew how good Pasta e Fagioli could be, they would put down their carb warrior shields immediately, grab a spoon and eat it. With gusto! They might even ask for seconds. (They will). The simplicity and gorgeousness of leftover home made egg dough pasta scraps (maltaglati – literally misshapen), rendered tensile and silken by a last minute addition to a luscious fresh borlotti bean, tomato, herb and pancetta broth, that has been brewed slowly and gently, teasing out the umami from the pancetta, the sweet pop of fruit from the tomato and the aroma of herbs finished with gentle chilli heat.
Maltagliati are supposed to be leftover scraps, I often make pasta dough just to make them. Chop rolled pasta dough into misshapes, triangles, squares, whatever you like, just make them small, about 1 cm in length.
Let me know how you like it. I know you will.
Notes on the recipe:
Do try to get fresh borlotti beans, which are in season right now. They are beautiful. Some online retailers sell them (I have seen them on Natoora), and I have also bought them in specialist shops like La Fromagerie. You can substitute with dried which I would use part cooked, or good tinned will do too. But the fresh ones are so joyful, bright pink pods, underneath in stripey pyjamas, which they sadly yield and become grey as they cook. But you will forgive them that when you taste them.
Do make the pasta. It makes an enormous difference. You will have more pasta dough than you need. You can keep it in the fridge for up to a week but it also freezes very well (in a single layer so it doesn’t stick). The dough freezes brilliantly too. If you really don’t want to, use a small pasta shape of your choice (but really, do make the pasta!).
RECIPE: Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 2 (or just me if I am in need of the comfort)
75g smoked pancetta, cut in small dice
200g tomato, the best tomatoes you can get, diced, peeled and deseeded if large
2 cloves garlic
a couple of tbsp of fresh finely chopped rosemary pines
150g fresh podded borlotti beans (podded weight), or substitute tinned drained or cooked dried beans (preferably the latter)
2 bay leaves
75g maltagliati (1 egg & 100g pasta flour & pinch of salt)
2 tbsp fine grated parmesan
Make your maltagliati dough. Place the flour on a wooden chopping board and create a hole in the centre large enough to accommodate your egg. Using a fork break the egg, and slowly pull in flour from the edge and whisk gently with the egg, going in a circle, until you have combined both. Then use your hands and knead it until elastic, between 5 & 10 minutes. It will be smooth when ready, and when you pull it, it will stretch. Wrap in cling film and leave to the side for half an hour.
Prepare your broth. Sauté the pancetta in its own fat until starting to brown. Add the tomatoes, rosemary and garlic and cook for a few minutes until the tomato is starting to soften. Add the water, beans (if fresh or dried, not tinned) and bay leaves and bring to the boil. Leave to simmer gently until the beans are tender. About 20 minutes if fresh.
While the broth is simmering, prepare your maltagliati. When the dough has rested for half an hour, roll it on a wooden board or other available surface, lightly dusted in flour. Or use a pasta machine! Roll until as thin, until just before you can see through it. I like it to be a little firm. Cut with a knife into small irregular shapes about 1 cm long when finished. Have fun with it!
When the beans are tender it is time to add the pasta. You want the broth to be a little soupy but also to have flavour. If it is looking dry add some more water, but just as much as you need to make it viscous. Add the pasta and cook for about 3 minutes. Season to taste and serve with the parmesan on top.
Very good, isn’t it?!