Thursday, January 5, 2017

Pasta Fagioli e Prosciutto

     A Hearty Pasta and Bean Soup!  
     There are many standardized Italian recipes that never change and they are prepared the same way everywhere.  There are also Italian recipes can vary from one region to the next and from family to family.  Pasta Fagiole is one of those recipes that is subject to regional variations and each chef adds their own personal touch.
     One Pasta Fagiole recipe that I learned was from way back while I was apprenticing with a great Sicilian chef.  His style of Pasta Fagioli was complex and it deserved to be served in a fine dining atmosphere.  I published a similar recipe in my Classic Cuisine website.  Here is the link if you are interested:  • Pasta e Fagioli
     Today's Pasta Fagiole is much more casual.  This recipe is similar to a Pasta Fagiole variation that I learned while working at an Italian family style restaurant.  One of the owners was from a small Italian fishing community and her cooking style was modest.  Her Pasta Fagioli was simple and soothing.  Basically the soup was made with just beans, onion, garlic, broth, Ditali Pasta, salt and pepper.    
     Of course every chef adds their own personal touch to Pasta Fagioli and I am no exception.  I decided to make a simple soothing Fasta Fagioli and float thin sliced Prosciutto on top of the soup just before serving.  Because the Prosciutto is not boiled in the soup broth, the flavor of the prosciutto is not diluted.  The Prosciutto becomes warm as it lays on top of the soup and the full aromatic flavor awakens.  Floating the prosciutto on Pasta Fagioli was presentation that I once experimented with at a French café.  I rolled the prosciutto into tight straw shapes for that presentation.  When cooking in French café, adding a little bit of flare to an old traditional soup is always a good thing.
     Is Pasta Fagioli a pasta or a soup?  That is a good question and unfortunately there is no definitive answer.  The timing of when Pasta Fagioli is meant to be served during a multi course meal is what determines whether this Italian specialty is a soup or a pasta.  When served as an antipasti, it is a soup.  When served as a pasta course, then it is a pasta!

     Ditali Pasta Fagioli e Prosciutto:
     This recipe yields about 2 1/4 cups.  (1 large serving)   
     No tricky cooking techniques are required in this recipe.  The broth and ingredients are cooked at a full boil and no ingredients are sautéed.  Even the pasta is cooked in the soup broth.  
     Like many Italian zuppa recipes, this soup is quickly made to order or it is made ahead of time, chilled and then reheated to order.  Keeping Pasta Fagioli in a soup warmer will cause it to lose character.
     There should be a high proportion of ingredients to broth, when the soup finishes cooking.  The excess broth will evaporate and reduce to a manageable amount by the time the soup finishes. 
     Step 1:  Place 3 1/2 cups of light chicken broth in a sauce pot.
     Add 1/4 cup of chopped onion.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced carrot.
     Add 1/4 cup of diced celery.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of minced garlic.
     Add 1/4 cup of tomato puree.
     Step 2:  Add 1 bay leaf.
     Add 1 pinch of oregano.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 pinch of sage.
     Add 1 pinch of basil.
     Add 2 pinches of sea salt and black pepper.
     Step 3:  Place the sauce pot over medium heat.
     Bring the soup to a gentle boil.
     Gently boil the soup till the vegetables start to become tender.
     Step 4:  Add 2/3 cup of rinsed cooked cannellini beans (or rinsed canned cannellini beans).
     Return the soup to a gentle boil.
     Step 5:  Add 1/3 cup of dried Ditali Pasta.
     Add 10 whole Italian Parsley leaves.
     Stir the soup, as the pasta starts to cook.
     Gently boil the soup till the pasta is cooked al dente.
     *If too much broth has evaporated at this point and the proportion of ingredients is too high, then add just enough broth to cover the ingredients with liquid.
     Step 6:  Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/4 teaspoon of lemon juice.
     Add 1/2 teaspoon of virgin olive oil.
     Gently simmer the soup for a few minutes, so it becomes a safe serving temperature.
     Step 7:  Remove the bay leaf.
     Ladle the soup into a shallow large soup bowl.
     Step 8:  Cut paper thin slices of Prosciutto into 4"x4" shapes.  About 6 pieces are enough.
     Fold each prosciutto square in half, to form long rectangles.
     Float the Prosciutto pieces on the surface of the soup, so they point outward from center.
     Garnish with a large Italian Parsley leaf.

     This is a quickly made simple Pasta Fagioli that has a nice flavor!  The warm Prosciutto floating on the surface of the soup is very aromatic!

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