Buon Anno!

Buon Anno (Happy New Year) from D.O.P. Kitchen! Welcome to our first blog post - and fortune willing, the first of many. The goal of this blog will be to regularly update it with what is inspiring (or interesting or delicious) to us, in the hopes that it’ll inspire you too.

It’s hard to see the holidays coming to a close for several reasons: ornaments being packed up, family heading back across the country…but mostly I’m sad because we will have to wait another year before the traditional holiday meals are again consumed. Like most Italian American families - heck, like most families in general - we have done a lot of eating since Thanksgiving, and New Years Day is no exception.  

New Years Day in Santa Monica

New Years Day in Santa Monica

In Italy, it’s customary on New Years to eat cotechino con lenticchie - sausage and lentils - as legumes and pork are thought to bring not only luck but wealth as well. And hey, who couldn’t use an extra bit of both?  This year though, we were anxious to put our holiday ham bone to good use and it is very, very cold in Santa Monica (ok fine, cold for Santa Monica) so instead of sausage and lentils, we instead decided to go with pork and beans. Pasta e Fagioli!

Growing up, Pasta e Fagioli was my absolute favorite soup and there is one version that has always been king (or maybe it should be queen) of them all: Marcella Hazan’s. Her cookbook is a reference guide we turn to time and time again in our family.  For those of you who aren’t familiar, she is widely credited with introducing Italian cuisine to American cooks in the 1970s.  And it’s not hard to see why.  This soup truly is the perfect symbol of Italian cooking – simple ingredients yielding layers of flavor.

I’ve transcribed the recipe from my mother’s copy of the book, including her additions and changes and penciled notes in the margin. I have not, however, included the grease stains and fingerprints all over this page - you’ll just have to trust me that this recipe has over the years been made many, many times in our family kitchens.

Adapted from Marcella Hazan’s “The Classic Italian Cookbook”

Pasta e Fagioli

¼ cup chopped yellow onion

¼ cup olive oil

1/3 cup chopped carrot

1/3 cup chopped celery

1 ham bone, with some meat on it

28 oz. can canned Italian plum tomatoes, hand-crushed, with their juice

2 cups dried borlotti or cannellini beans*

6 cups beef broth (preferably homemade) or 2 cups canned beef broth (Swanson’s is the best) mixed with 4 cups water

1 Parmigiano-Reggiano rind (about a 3 inch piece)

salt and pepper

8 ounces pasta (we use fresh pasta scraps or dried macaroni)

¼ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano

2 Tbsp. unsalted butter

*The night before, soak the dried beans. Put them in a bowl and cover them with cold water by 2 inches and let soak overnight.

  1. The next day, rinse and drain them and put them in a pot of cold water, covered by 2 inches, and bring to a moderate boil. Cover the pot and simmer until tender (about 40 minutes). Keep them in the liquid until you’re ready to use them.

  2. Put the onion in a stockpot with the oil and sauté over medium heat until pale gold.
  3. Add the carrot and celery and sauté for about 5 minutes. Add the ham bone and sauté for about 10 minutes, stirring the vegetables and turning the bone from time to time.
  4. Add the crushed tomatoes and their juice, turn the heat down to medium low and cook for 20 minutes at a low simmer.
  5. Drain the beans and add them to the pot. Cook for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  6. Add the broth and/or broth/water and bring to a moderate boil. Add the Parmigiano-Reggiano rind.
  7. Scoop up about ½ cup of beans and run them through a food mill and put them back into the pot or just smash them against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon.
  8. Add the pasta and cook until the pasta is tender. If it starts to get too thick, add more broth or water.
  9. Just before serving, add the grated cheese and the butter and swirl until melted.
  10. Serve with extra grated Parmigiano-Reggiano on the side and a drizzle of finishing extra-virgin olive oil.
A beautiful piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, ready for the soup

A beautiful piece of Parmigiano-Reggiano rind, ready for the soup

Now, traditionally you would follow this zuppa with a meat dish but we’re starting 2015 on a light note and focusing on our New Years resolution of simplifying – a beautiful bowl of soup, some crusty ciabatta and a glass of Sangiovese. As Marcella Hazan says, “It is possible even from the tumultuous center of the busiest life to summon up the life-enhancing magic of the Italian art of eating. What it requires is generosity. You must give liberally of time, of patience, of the best raw materials. What it returns is worth all you have to give.”

The finished product, drizzled with an extra-virgin oil from Tuscany

The finished product, drizzled with an extra-virgin oil from Tuscany

Sounds good to me. Happy New Year and tanti auguri (good luck).