2011 is here and after week upon week of holiday festivities and overindulging in chowtime cheer, I am ready to return to my prior life of lighter, nutrition-laden fare. As a matter of fact, I am sprinting back with open arms. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed this month-long stint while it lasted, but my system has definitely been working overtime processing refined carbs and red meat, something it’s not accustomed to the majority of the year. I sensed my body’s mayday signal when I woke up on New Years suffering from a sore throat, headache and bloated belly. After spending the majority of the day grazing, hydrating and finally squeezing in a dusk workout, I knew it was resuscitation time and I began to think about my next blog post…
I scoured through our fridge and pantry and after looking past the potato pie, box of Rocky Mountain chocolate, and mom’s Christmas cookies, I found my less glamorous, but reliable friends patiently waiting from me: spinach, tomatoes, beans, garlic, onions, celery, and carrots. I decided to put together a pot of pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian pauper’s stew, and throw in some spinach, fresh herbs, and extra beans to ramp up my detox. Also, instead of using dried pasta, I opted to make fresh spinach pasta with the press my husband gave me for Christmas. This last step is in no way, shape, or form integral to realizing the wholesome benefits of this one pot dish. I simply I felt like playing with my new toy and wanted everything to be from scratch.
I hope this soup revitalizes you as much as it has me. Here’s wishing you health, happiness, and success in the new year.
Spinach Pasta Fagioli
3/4 cup dried red kidney beans
3/4 cup dried cannellini beans
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
3 large garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped carrots
1/2 tsp. sea salt
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
8 cups chicken or vegetable stock
1 bay leaf
1 Parmesan rind
1 14-oz. can diced tomatoes in juice
1 1/2 cups fresh spinach pasta (small noodles)
1/3 cup grated pecorino romano cheese
1/3 loosely packed basil leaves, sliced
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley
2 cups fresh spinach
Combine beans in a large bowl with 6 cups of cold water. Cover loosely with a towel and soak 8 hours or overnight. Drain beans and set aside.
Melt butter and olive oil in a large cast iron pot over medium heat. Add garlic, onion, celery, carrots, sea salt, and pepper flakes. Sauté 3 minutes until the veggies have softened slightly. Add beans, stock, bay leaf, Parmesan rind, and tomatoes in juice. Raise heat to high and bring pot to a rapid boil. Cover and reduce heat to a low simmer. Cook for 1 hour until beans are tender, stirring occasionally.
In the meantime, prepare pasta al dente according to directions, drain, and set aside. When the veggie-bean mixture has finished cooking, discard the Parmesan rind and bay leaf. Ladle out approximately 1 1/2 cups of veggies and beans with a minimal amount of broth. Process well with a small hand blender, return to pot, and mix well. Stir in the cooked pasta, grated Pecorino Romano cheese, basil, parsley, and spinach leaves. Simmer soup for an additional 5 minutes until spinach is bright green and well wilted. Season to taste with fresh ground pepper and sea salt if necessary. Ladle into individual bowls, sprinkle with more Pecorino Romano cheese, and serve immediately.
- Canned beans work fine, but as is the nature of anything canned, they’re higher in sodium . When I have the foresight to know I will be cooking beans and the time to soak them, I prefer the dried variety. They are firmer and hold up nicely. If you choose to use canned, substitute 1 can of red kidney and 1 can of cannellini in place of the dried beans. Rinse and drain them well and only simmer soup for 30 minutes.
- In a pinch, feel free to substitute one of Pasta Fagioli’s more traditional dry pasta shapes, ditalini or elbow macaroni, in place of the fresh pasta.
- For a heartier appetite, serve with a toasted slice of whole grain bread and soak up every last drop.
- If preparing for children or the “heat-averse”, feel free to reduce or completely leave out the red pepper flakes. No harm, no foul.
- Beyond the 1/2 teaspoon of sea salt added in the beginning of this recipe, I did not use any more, nor did I miss it (surprising for my palate). There are other sodium contributors in this dish including the cheese and broth. If you choose to add more at the end, use a light hand.
- Shoot me a comment or e-mail if you’d like the spinach pasta recipe.