Phoebe 1988, oil on canvas, 22 x 30 inches
There are several hundred cookbooks on my kitchen shelves. I have been dipping into some I haven’t used lately, stumbling over recipe gems that I once cooked.
On a recent cold afternoon I paged through Poor Cook, a book I used often when we lived in London on a limited budget. I was learning to cook and this little volume inspired my budding interest in cooking and taught me many wonderful dishes.
I wondered if the Pasta e fagioli soup was as delicious as I remembered so set out to make it. My Rancho Gordo bean club delivery had arrived and I had a pot of flageolet beans cooking with a piece of kombu. Just right for the soup.
While the beans cooked, I chopped a head of fennel, three stalks of celery, four cloves of garlic and some small potatoes.
When the beans were done I removed about three cups with some of the bean broth (and saved the rest for another dish). These went into the soup pot with the veggies, a teaspoon of salt and a big pinch of hot red pepper flakes and left to gently cook until tender.
Next, I added several cups of water and brought the soup to a boil, threw in two handfuls of casarecce pasta (about a cup) and cooked until al dente tender. With a handful of chopped Italian parsley, one of grated parmesan, and a good grind of black pepper the soup was ready. And yes, it was as delicious as I remembered, becoming creamy and succulent with the pasta and cheese. (I placed a bowl of parmesan on the table to add as we wished.) Served in Thea and Lele bowls.
To go with the soup I made a salad of roasted butternut squash and pomegranate seeds, lettuce and arugula, a nice contrast to the savory pasta e fagioli.
To the greens, I added the chopped squash and seeds and tossed everything with a simple olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper vinaigrette. Buon appetito!