Zuppa di Pasta e Fagioli

For this soup it is well worth seeking out from your local deli the small pasta shapes, which are intended for these dishes, Nochette, Anelli, Acini di Pepe, or Ditalini.  Failing that most supermarkets these days have Orzo, the small pasta which looks like rice.

Serves 4/6

To make this a quick and simple dish I would use 2 drained cans of suitable beans, in water, Flageolet, Borlotti or Cannelini are perhaps best; 2 tsp olive oil; 2 rashers of unsmoked bacon or bacon pieces, chopped small; 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped, 1 onion, finely chopped; 1 stick of celery, finely chopped [or better still if you have any 1 ‘skin’ of Fennel Bulb, finely sliced]; 1 litre of stock, homemade if you have it, or for convenience I often use organic, low salt, stock cubes or powder; 1 can organic chopped Italian tomatoes; 200 g of small pasta; freshly grated Manchego to top, which I find melts deliciously rather than floating like Parmesan ice floes tend to.

Heat a large saucepan with the oil and put in the bacon, garlic, onion and celery or fennel.  Saute stirring until soft and the garlic is just turning brown.  Add the tomatoes, 3/4 of the stock and bring to the boil.  Turn down and simmer for about 15 mins, then add your beans and simmer for a further 5 mins.  Scoop out a good quantity of the beans in a sieve, and then push them through the sieve back into the soup.  Bring back to the boil and add your pasta.  Though small they may well take 10 mins to soften so keep stirring to prevent your soup sticking.  The soup should be thick.  If getting too dry add the remaining stock.

Serve into soup bowls grating a little black pepper on each and adding the Manchego.   Accompany with thickly sliced, warmed, ciabatta loaf and you have the perfect supper dish for a chilly day, Spring or Winter.