Taste of Italy

If you wish to try authen­tic Ital­ian cui­sine this win­ter, then Daniel Ne­man’s recipe of pasta is the one

The Gulf Today - Time Out - - FOOD - METHOD

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.

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