Pasta e Fagioli

Appetizers and Starters, Main Dishes, Recipes

“When the stars make you drool, just-a like pasta fazool, that’s amore…” It has been getting pretty chilly around here, and you know what that means –’tis the season for soup! We make lots of chicken based soups, but sometimes, you’re just in a mood that only a bacon and beef based broth can satisfy. Pasta e fagioli, literally “pasta and beans” in Italian, is a simple soup that’s packed with flavor. It’s also surprisingly easy and plus, I’ll bet you can’t help but hum Dean Martin’s That’s Amore as this simmers on the stove.

Pasta e Fagioli

Pasta e Fagioli

Another perk of making “pasta fazool” — not only can you whip it up in a jiffy, the ingredients list is largely made up of shelf stable items commonly in stock in the pantry. Just… make sure you have a working can opener. (Without one, it was a lot of extra unnecessary effort getting those tomatoes and beans out of their aluminum shields… not speaking from experience at all, but just saying – if you need advice on how to pop open a can without a proper can opener, shoot me an email.)

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

2-3 strips bacon (I used thick-cut applewood smoked bacon), sliced into lardons

2-3 cloves of garlic, minced

1 teaspoon dried thyme

3-4 dried bay leaves

(Optional: sprinkle of dried red pepper flakes)

1 14 ounce can diced tomatoes

1 14 ounce can cannellini (white kidney) beans

1 32 fl oz (quart) beef stock

1/2 lb small pasta, like ditalini, stars, orzo, etc.

Salt & pepper to taste

It's BACON! (says the dog from the Beggin' Strips commercials in the 90s)

It’s BACON! (says the dog from the Beggin’ Strips commercials in the 90s)

Step 1: I like to use the same cutting board whenever I can, so first, mince the garlic and set aside. Take out the bacon strips and cut into large lardon-like pieces.

Mmm bacon grease.

Mmm bacon grease.

Step 2: Heat a stock pot over high heat. Saute the lardons and render the fat.

Amazing aromatics with the bacon-garlic combo

Amazing aromatics with the bacon-garlic combo

Step 3: When the bacon has cooked through, add the garlic. Once the garlic has just barely started to brown, sprinkle in the herbs and red pepper flakes, if desired.

After finally prying open those cans...

After finally prying open those cans…

Step 4: Add both the tomatoes and cannellini beans. Mix around and heat on medium / medium-high for a few minutes.

Adding in the Stock

Adding in the Stock

Step 5: Pour in the beef stock and cover to quickly bring to a boil.

The pasta really soaks up a lot of the liquid -- add water if necessary

The pasta really soaks up a lot of the liquid — add water if necessary

Step 6: Once the soup has reached a boil, add in the pasta. This is also a good chance to taste the soup and season as needed. Keep in mind that the stock and bacon are inevitably salty.

Ready to Serve!

Ready to Serve!

Step 7: Continue to simmer for about 10 minutes or until the pasta reaches al dente texture. Serve immediately.

Buon Appetito!

Buon Appetito!

Makes about 4 hearty servings of soup. It’s best to only make enough for same-day consumption as the pasta continues to expand the longer it sits in the soup. (Still delicious, even though my lunch of leftovers was more saucy than soupy.)

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Weeknight Dinner: Bacon & Arugula Cellentani

Main Dishes, Recipes

I know the discontinuation of Google Reader is old news, but a few weeks ago I finally migrated my RSS feeds over to Feedly and have been playing catch-up with some of my favorite food blogs for inspiration. Anywho, last week Adam at The Amateur Gourmet posted an apparently popular recipe for bacon, chickpea, and spinach pasta and I, remembering the bacon I have leftover in the fridge after making a boatload of onion compote for the barbecue, was inspired to make my own bacon pasta for dinner. Unfortunately I had neither chickpea nor spinach on hand, so as much as I love Lidia Bastianich, I had to pave my own path that night. A half-eaten bag of arugula, also a casualty of the Copycat FO Burger, called out to me (as did its friend Canned Tomatoes sitting in the pantry) and before I knew it, the dish really came together.

Bacon & Arugula Pasta

Bacon & Arugula Pasta

It’s hearty and rustic without really using much meat, and it was an easy, comforting weeknight dish that yielded 4 meals. Plus, these new cellentani (also known as cavatappi) from Barilla were fun to eat and perfectly held the light tomato-bacon sauce. You can substitute any shaped pasta of your choosing; I imagine penne or ziti would also work well.

Ingredients:

Ingredients:

3-4 strips of applewood smoked bacon (the fancy thick-cut slices are ideal)

4-5 cloves of garlic, minced (I used 6. It was awesome.)

1/4 cup sweet onion, diced (or about 1/4 to 1/2 of a medium-sized onion)

Optional: Dried red pepper flakes, a few shakes

1 14.5-ounce can of whole tomatoes, hand crushed (you can also use canned diced or crushed tomatoes)

1 teaspoon dried basil

1 teaspoon dried oregano

1 16-ounce box of dried pasta (you might not need all of it – I used about 3/4 of the box and saved the leftover plain pasta for another dish)

1 generous handful (about 1 cup) arugula, washed and dried

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Step 1: Cook the pasta

Step 1: Boil just enough water to cover the pasta by an inch or so (you’ll want to save the nice and starchy pasta water for the sauce later). Salt it and cook the pasta according to package instructions.

Step 2: Bacon Lardon

Step 2: Bacon Lardon

Step 2: Meanwhile, cut the bacon slices into 1/2-inch strips (in case you’re curious, these are also known as lardon). Heat a skillet over medium-high heat.

Step 3: Sizzle like bacon (just kidding - render the fat)

Step 3: Sizzle like bacon (just kidding – render the fat)

Step 3: Render the fat from the bacon pieces, stirring periodically to brown both sides of each piece.

Step 4: Onions, garlic, pepper flakes

Step 4: Onions, garlic, pepper flakes

Step 4: When the bacon is sufficiently browned but not quite shriveled to a crisp, add the garlic and onion and red pepper flakes, if using. Saute until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.  Depending on the size and shape of your pasta, this will be about the time when you’ll need to — RESERVING the pasta water — drain (and rinse, if you have to) and set it aside. Hold onto the pasta water, at least a cup or two of it.

Step 5a: Crush the whole tomatoes (if using crushed, just open the can)

Step 5a: Crush the whole tomatoes (if using crushed, just open the can)

Step 5a: Crush the tomatoes by hand if using whole tomatoes.

Step 5b: Add the tomatoes

Step 5b: Add the tomatoes

Step 5b: Add the crushed tomatoes and about a ladle or two’s worth of pasta water. Lower the heat and let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes to cook down and thicken.

Step 6: Herbs

Step 6: Herbs

Step 6: I sprinkled in a bit of granulated sugar at this point, not more than a teaspoon, to balance the acidity. Add the dried herbs and continue to simmer.

Step 7: Stir and simmer

Step 7: Stir and simmer

Step 7: Stir the sauce periodically. If you feel it is getting too thick, add more pasta water. The sauce should resemble a spaghetti sauce but preferably a bit less viscous.

Step 7: Add pasta

Step 8: Add pasta

Step 8: When the sauce resembles a good ol’ spaghetti sauce, add about half to two-thirds of the pasta. Stir well. Add more pasta water or pasta or both until you’ve hit a ratio of evenly coated, tomato-y pasta. Just be careful not to thin out the sauce too much at this point and again, you will probably not use up all of the cooked pasta.

Step 9: Arugula

Step 9: Arugula

Step 9: Just before serving, pile on the arugula and mix in, letting the steam from the hot pasta wilt the leaves. You’ll want to do this last because actually cooking the arugula will make it bitter.

Wilting arugula

Wilting arugula

A sprinkling of fresh cracked black pepper and this is ready to serve.

Buon appetito~!

Buon appetito~!

Buon appetito — a rustic-tasting dinner that can be thrown together in as little as 30 minutes! When I first made this, Martin was working late, so I kept the sauce on a constant simmer and periodically added pasta water as needed over the course of about 20-30 minutes. My total prep and cooking time was about an hour because I wanted to toss in the pasta closer to serving time. Still, not bad for a weeknight and if you’re just cooking for 2 like we are, this means plenty of leftovers for lunch. And in case you were wondering, microwaved arugula is a bit bitter but certainly edible. If you can, bring along some fresh sprigs and mix them in after nuking the pasta and sauce only for best next-day results. Cheers!

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Heritage Farm Pancake House – Sanbornton, NH

Food Adventures, New Hampshire

Perhaps what we were looking forward to most about our trip to New Hampshire (second to the wedding, of course) was maple syrup season! Throughout the month of March, farmers all over NH and Vermont set up buckets to tap the sap from acres of maple trees for weeks at a time. The sap is then collected and boiled down to a concentrated syrup to be bottled in adorable leaf-shaped glass bottles and mini plastic jugs.

If you look closely, the sign on the barn door looks reminiscent of something from Winnie the Pooh

If you look closely, the sign on the barn door looks reminiscent of something from Winnie the Pooh!

We were lucky to discover that one such farm was situated just down the hill from the Steele Hill Resort — Heritage Farm Pancake House. Open only for breakfast (Wednesdays through Saturdays 8am to noon during maple season), this quaint shop features a maple sugaring facility, pancake-flipping restaurant, and a petting zoo out back.

Boiling down the sap into syrup

Boiling down the sap into syrup

Not being early-risers ourselves, we stumbled in around 11:45am (just before closing) and asked the friendly woman behind the counter whether it was too late for a tour. She invited us to walk right into the maple sugaring area while we were waiting for our breakfast order. Awesome!

Matt the jack-of-all-trades

Matt the jack-of-all-trades

There we were greeted by Matt, an amicable gentleman who was eager to answer our questions about the process. He even let us venture up to the loft area to see the tank of sap and to get a birds-eye view of the equipment. Check out that huge flume of steam on the right — in boiling the sap down into syrup, they end up with a ratio of nearly 50:1. That’s a lot of evaporating!

Family-style Breakfast

Family-style Breakfast

Naturally, when you think about maple syrup, pancakes are one of the first things to come to mind. At Heritage Farm, the popular choice is the family-style breakfast. Farm-fresh eggs, locally grown potatoes, homemade pancakes, locally sourced smoked bacon… count us in!

Bacon and home fries

Bacon and home fries

Martin’s silky and fluffy scrambled eggs are on the left, snuggled next to the pile of home fries (extra crispy, per our request) and a little mountain of bacon. The thick-cut bacon from The Fox Country Smoke House was toothsome and tender. The potatoes seemed extra earthy and had a wonderful crunch on the edges.

Sunny side up!

Sunny side up!

I prefer my eggs sunny side up and runny. I forgot the “runny” part when I placed this order, but no matter – the yolk oozed lusciously and blew every grocery store egg out of the water.

Pumpkin pancakes!

Pumpkin pancakes!

It’s kinda hard to find pumpkin pancakes in LA outside of the fall season because that’s when it is trendy and relevant. Needless to say, I was excited to find homemade pumpkin pancakes on their extensive list of flavors. Moist and gooey with pumpkin puree and perfectly golden on the outside, these pancakes were not too sweet, making them perfect when drizzled with their own maple syrup. I was in pancake heaven!

Blueberry pancakes!

Blueberry pancakes!

Martin has a soft spot for blueberry pancakes, so they were an obvious choice. Filled with the plump purple globes, he seemed to really enjoy his breakfast, not even pausing to share a bite with me!

By the time we polished off the last morsel, we were stuffed and oh so satisfied. But wait! I still had not seen any trees with those iconic metal buckets hanging from them. I would miss what could be my only opportunity to see it live and in-person! I panicked, I worried, but then, just as we pulled onto the dirt road, I spotted it. Martin barely slowed to a stop when I hopped out of the car to snap a photo. I could vaguely hear him chuckling at my enthusiasm.

Mission accomplished!

Mission accomplished!

If you find yourself in or near Sanbornton, NH, we definitely recommend starting your day off right with a farm-fresh breakfast at Heritage Farm Pancake House. The food is delicious and comforting, the staff are all welcoming and friendly, and there’s nothing like warming your hands by the furnace that powers the sap-boiling equipment and savoring in the sweet-smelling steam as sap turns to syrup before your very eyes. Plus, if you go early enough (unlike us – we turned out to be their last table of the morning), you just might have the opportunity to check out the pasture out back and pet some farm critters!

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Check out Heritage Farm Pancake House: heritagefarmpancakehouse.com

16 Parker Hill Rd
Sanbornton, NH 03269

See their Yelp reviews here!