Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bean & Pasta Soup

It is one of those generic soups - bean and pasta - that everyone likes and there are subtly different versions everywhere to be found and then, when you make it, the reason for its ubiquity is clear. This is a great meal full of textures and flavours to soothe the hungry beast. It started when I wanted to use up some Parmesan rinds that have been sat in the fridge for ages. Great for umami. I had half a packet of white Argentinian beans that look like cannellini's but are more robust when soaked and boiled but have a lovely creamy texture when cooked. I had a new rosemary plant - I kill at least one rosemary plant a year, I don't know why. No knack.

There was smoked bacon in the freezer and some parsley that also needed using up. Needeed some lovely little pasta 'o's and this was dinner in the realm of the divine.

Bean & Pasta Soup
150g haricot or white Argentinian beans or similar, soaked overnight
Bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, rosemary and celery leaves
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
2tbsp olive oil
200g tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml-600ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
100g small pasta shapes, such as ditalini or rigati
1tbsp of chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan rind, if you have some

Drain and rinse the beans. Put them into a large pan, cover with cold water and add a bouquet garni. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40-50 minutes till the beans are just tender. Add a tablespoon of salt after 30 minutes. Do this the day before if you like, they will sit happily in the fridge overnight and it is then reasonably quick to make the final dish.

Gently cook the onion, celery, garlic, rosemary and bacon in the olive oil for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Purée half the beans in a food processor or blender, then add to the pan with the tomatoes. Parmesan rind (if using) and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, then drain. Add the cooked pasta, the whole beans and the parsley to the stew and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.

The mixture should be fairly thick but still with the consistency of soup - add a little more water or stock if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan if you didn't use rinds in the making. Otherwise needs nothing more than crusty bread to mop up the dregs.

A great way to start bank holiday weekend, and enough left over to freeze for another time.

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