Taste of Italy
If you wish to try authentic Italian cuisine this winter, then Daniel Neman’s recipe of pasta is the one
Many Italian foods are so familiar they almost seem like American foods. If you ask a child where pizza is from, he is likely to say the United States. And the same goes for spaghetti and lasagna. Gelato, too.
No wonder Italian food is still the most popular ethnic food in America. So it was natural inevitable, really that I would wrap up my yearlong culinary tour of other countries with a visit to Italy, the besttasting boot in the world.
The country is marvelously varied in the cuisine of its different regions. Southern Italy provides the food that is perhaps most familiar to Americans. It is where you will find the tomatoes, the eggplants, the marinara sauce and the pizza.
Northern Italy is more about beef and dairy; it is home to the butter-based sauces and the cream. It is also the birthplace of salted meats, such as prosciutto and salami.
With such an extraordinary abundance of foods and styles of cooking, I was briely at a loss for what to choose that would best represent the Italian kitchen. I decided to go for dishes that were well-known and comforting.
I decided to make what is perhaps the ultimate Italian comfort food. Pasta e Fagioli, which is pronounced by Southern Italians as “pasta fazool,” is a simple dish of pasta and white beans; it is just about the most inexpensive meal you can make. Inexpensive, yes, but warming and inexpressibly wonderful. About half of the beans are pureed, which creates a nicely rustic texture, and the pasta is cooked in that puree (with a lot of water), allowing it to draw in all of those great lavours. To millions of Italians, it says “home.” To millions of people who are not Italian, it says, “Wow, this is really, shockingly good.”
PASTA E FAGIOLI YIELD: 6 SERVINGS INGREDIENTS
2 POUNDS DRIED WHITE BEANS SUCH AS CANNELLINI, SOAKED IN COLD WATER OVERNIGHT AND DRAINED 3 TABLESPOONS OLIVE OIL 6 SAGE LEAVES OR 1/2 TEASPOON DRIED SAGE 1 GARLIC CLOVE, CRUSHED 3 TABLESPOONS STRAINED TOMATOES, SUCH AS POMI 3 OUNCES DITALINI PASTA OR SMALL ELBOW MACARONI
1. Put soaked beans in a large pot, add cold water to cover by at least 3 inches and bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer for two hours. Transfer half the beans to a food processor and process to a puree.
2. Heat oil in a large pot, add the sage and garlic and cook two minutes; do not burn the garlic. Add the bean puree and 6 1/4 cups of water; season generously with salt and pepper, and stir in the strained tomatoes. Add the whole beans. Bring to a boil, add the pasta, and cook until al dente, according to instructions on the package cooked, but still a little chewy. Serve hot, cold or warm.