Monday, January 5, 2009

Pasta Fagioli

Photos just don't do justice to stews, I suspect. And Blogger has rotated my photo for some reason.

I spend a lot of time in my physical kitchen, so I'm not sure why I let things slide here for so long. But since one of
my goals for the year is to re-establish my presence here, you can look forward to more regular posting of recipes and other food-related topics.

My main gift this holiday season was a 6 quart crockpot, a desire I developed after discovering a great site,
A Year of CrockPotting. And I figured, what better recipe to break it in than pasta fagioli; I knew as soon as Stephanie posted her recipe that I would have to make it sometime, since this soup has a history in our household.

I first discovered Trader Joe's when I moved away for grad school. It was a popular place to go for cheap but good eats (and wine) among my colleagues and I immediately understood why. Trillian and I found their pasta fagioli canned soup on a trip; it became a stock-up purchase at each subsequent visit. For about a dollar, we could have a tasty and filling lunch. At the time, I was still a vegetarian, though I have to admit that I don't remember checking to see if this used chicken broth.

While in Canada, we didn't have access to Trader Joe's, so we were looking forward to having one in Capital City after our move. It was one of the first places we went once the movers brought our stuff. Of course we headed to the soup section... only to discover that our favorite soup had been discontinued. Trillian still remarks on this every time we set foot in the store.

Now Stephanie's recipe is meant to copy Olive Garden's recipe, and it's definitely different than the TJ version. But I will be making this and variations on a regular basis! As soon as Trillian had a couple bites, she said, "Put this into the rotation!" (I'm trying to develop a list of go-to recipes that are easy and both Trillian and I like.)

Here's the recipe, adapted from A Year of Crockpotting. I kept to the basic structure she provided, but upped some of the veggies and omitted the salt (because the broth has plenty, in my opinion).

1 pound lean ground beef, browned and drained

1 small red onion, chopped

2 medium carrots, chopped

3 celery stalks, sliced
2 cans (14.5 oz) diced tomatoes, undrained
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed

1 can white beans, drained and rinsed

4 cups beef broth
1 jar pasta sauce (no idea how many ounces, just a regular-sized jar)
generous shake of Italian Seasoning

a couple shakes of Tabasco sauce
black pepper to taste

a couple handfuls of dry pasta, to add at end of cooking time (I used Tinkyada brown rice fusilli)

  1. Brown the meat. Let cool while chopping vegetables.
  2. Chop up onion, carrots, celery.
  3. Add everything (except pasta) to the crockpot and mix a bit.
  4. Cook on low for 8 hours or high for 4 hours.
  5. Add pasta and cook on low for about another hour.
  6. Enjoy with parmesan, crusty bread, or whatever else sounds good.
I cooked ours for a little over 7 hours and then added the pasta. We grated some parmesan into it, and Trillian greatly lamented her lack of crusty bread (we've been keeping frozen hard rolls for her, but ran out).

This was much more tomato-based than the TJ version, but I'll happily use this recipe again. We've both enjoyed at least one bowl a day for the past three days, and I have several more servings frozen for later. If I want to get a little closer to our beloved version (and/or to make it vegetarian), I'll probably use vegetable broth, omit the beef and kidney beans, double up on white beans, and use elbow macaroni.


Aliki2006 said...

Yum! When I read through this I immediately thought about how to substitute for the beef and make it vegetarian. I love a good hearty bean soup in the crock pot!

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