The second I saw this recipe for Cranberry Bean Pasta Fagioli in the October issue of Food Network Magazine, I knew I had to make it. It looked so good! The only problem? Where on earth do you find cranberry beans?
Not in my neck of the suburban woods so I switched up the recipe a little and made it a tad more accessible to those without specialty food shops. I am so glad I did! This is a real winner of a recipe.
I also did not have a piece of pancetta so I sauteed three slices of bacon cut into lardons in a large Dutch oven. If you want to keep this soup vegetarian, no worries. Omit the bacon but you may want to consider adding just a tiny bit of liquid smoke at the end to give it that rich smoky flavour.
While the bacon was cooking I chopped up 1 small onion, minced 5 cloves of garlic, added 1/4 tsp of red pepper flakes and finely chopped 1 tsp of fresh rosemary.
Once the bacon started to get crispy, I removed it and put the pieces on a paper towel.
I cooked the onion, garlic… for a couple of minutes in the bacon fat but I also added a little olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan.
I added 5 San Marzano tomatoes, crushed by hand. I removed the rest of the tomatoes and put them in a bag to freeze for another recipe but I saved the liquid to use with the broth later on in the recipe. I cooked the tomatoes for two minutes and then seasoned with some salt and pepper.
Instead of cranberry beans I used one can of red kidney beans. They are robust and could handle the lengthy cooking process. The trick to using canned beans is really, REALLY clean them. Some people use that starchy liquid in their cooking but please, this is one of the reasons we get upset tummies when we have beans. I clean the heck out of them as I do the kale. Clean the kale in lots of fresh cold water, swish it through it and rinse and repeat several times. You do not want a sandy soup!
Add the beans and, because we are not using dried beans, only half the liquid called for in the recipe. If I did the conversion and math right you want to add six cups of water. I included some of the tomato sauce into the six cups of liquid which gave the soup a great colour and flavour. I had a rind of Parmesan cheese in my freezer, waiting to be used exactly for this reason. I added the rind along with two bay leaves. I covered the pot and brought to a boil, reduced the heat to low and simmered for an hour.
Once again, bring the soup to a boil and add the pasta. I used canneroni pasta and boiled it a few minutes shy of being cooked right through. Make sure to stir and scrape the bottom of the pot often so nothing sticks and burns.
I added the chopped kale, stirred it in and cooked for another five minutes or so. You want the soup to be thick and creamy at this point. I removed the bay leaves and the rind, then added the bacon back to the soup. I seasoned to taste. I ladled the soup into a bowl and sprinkled with some Parmesan and chopped parsley.
Absolutely perfect for the dark, stormy and rainy weather we have been getting. This recipe makes a ton of soup too! I put half of it in my deep freezer to be saved for another dark down the road when I do not feel like spending the afternoon cooking.
Please note that if you do not eat this entire pot of soup right away, the pasta will steal the broth when left to sit in the fridge. I just heated it up and added some chicken broth and extra cheese and the flavours were still fantastic.
I knew that if there was one recipe out there that would make me eat my red kidney beans (which I loathe) it was this recipe and I was right. All that cooking helps them get tender and, at least for me, edible. Such a healthy, hearty and healthy soup, I give this recipe five out of five wooden spoons (made my way).