Pasta e Fagioli

A couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I went to an Italian restaurant that had the most delicious pasta e fagioli. So naturally, I was inclined to re-create it at home. It's a very affordable soup to make and BONUS--the left over veggie scraps are great to make stock out of. Because I'm unable to get the tubettini or ditalini pasta package free, we use barley instead. So really, this is a recipe for barley e fagioli. 

The Ingredients: Organic if possible

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 gloves garlic finely chopped

1 large carrot chopped

3 stalks celery chopped

1 medium sized yellow onion finely chopped

1/2 cup chopped pancetta, bacon, or pork shoulder (optional)

1 to 1.5 quarts veggie stock (homemade is best)

1/2 cup barley (cooked separately and added when ready to serve). 

2 cans cannellini beans (you can prepare dried beans ). Puree one of the cans of beans.

2 tablespoons tomato paste, or 4 diced tomatoes (ripe)

4 leaves of kale or chard, chopped to your preference  (fine or rough)

1/3 cup finely chopped parsley

2 teaspoons red pepper flakes (I like it spicy)

salt and pepper. 

The Steps: 1. Heat the oil slightly on medium heat in a pot. Add the celery, onion, carrot and meat (optional) and cook until tender and soft. 2. Stir in the finely chopped garlic and let cook for 1 minute. 3. Add the veggie stock, tomato paste or chopped tomatoes, beans, and kale. Stir, then let cook for 20 minutes. 4. Add the finely chopped parsley, chili flakes, and salt. I don't add pepper until I serve the dish, as I find it can turn bitter when cooked. 5. Simmer soup until the broth has developed a desired flavor (roughy 20-30 more minutes). 6. Serve in a bowl and add as much barley as you like. Garnish with pepper, freshly chopped parsley, and parmesan cheese (optional). Buon appetito!

Preparing the barley: The ratio for cooking barley is 3 cups water for every 1 cup of barley. Add water and barley to a pot and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 45 minutes or until done. I recommend cooking and storing any leftover barley separately from the soup. If I add barley to the whole batch of soup it absorbs the liquid and becomes mushy. When I make this soup I often have a lot left over--it freezes well.