Beans are such a nice, neutral canvas, you can make a big, basic pot of them and then play around with them differently every day.
A last-minute trip to gather several things that I will need in the next few weeks and I had not given a thought to dinner once we returned home at 3:30, but guess what? I Had some wonderful pasta fagiole just about jumping out of the freezer begging for a chunk of parmesan or Romano rind to melt into the soup while reheating, but a little special treatment in order, some fine mezzaluna basil and cheese pasta rather than the usual tubetti pasta ready in less than 25 minutes. Serve with extra grated cheese, red pepper flakes, a great salad and crusty bread.The link to one of my recipes below at Food 52 which happens to be a fantastic site…
2 bags of dried navy beans, picked over and rinsed
2-3 cloves of garlic, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, diced
2 ribs celery, diced
2 carrots, chopped in large chunks
1 leftover ham bone or 2 ham hocks
12 cups water 2 cups less if using broth
1/2 teaspoon each of dried basil and oregano (or can use fresh herbs)
1 bay leaf
1 pinch red pepper flakes
1 can whole tomatoes and juice, rough chopped
1/2 pound or more of tubetti or other small pasta
1 cheese rind, optional
2 cups beef broth, optional
1 cup chicken broth, optional
* Optional 2 cups Greens of your choice, Swiss chard, kale, or spinach, sautéed in garlic and olive oil. Add to just about finished soup
Rinse beans, soak overnight and drain. To a very large stock pot add about 3 tablespoons olive oil and briefly sauté the celery, garlic, carrot, onion and ham bone or ham hocks. Break up the canned tomatoes and add to pot with all of the juices from the can. Let it all heat up while you add beans, water (optional broths if using), herbs and bay leaf. Season with a little red pepper flakes, salt and pepper to taste. Simmer until beans are tender about 2-3 hours on a medium low to low simmer.
Remove bay leaf. Remove bones and pick meat off to add back into the soup.
Season to your taste. Cook and drain tubetti, return to cooking pot, add some of the soup broth to the pasta.
At this point you can take half of the beans and puree, but I like the thinner broth and whole beans
First night soup is my favorite; everyone else likes the soup thicker or the next day.
*Notes for basic pasta fagioli: Once you have your basic soup ready you can get pretty creative adding in sautéed favorite greens to the simmering soup for several minutes before serving. Tiny meat balls, crispy pancetta, or prosciutto, and sausage are favorite additions for a second soup meal. Keep in mind all additions = more expense. I love freshly grated cheese in my bowl of pasta fagioli. Freeze leftover soup without pasta. Since it was sausage making day, I left some meat on the pork butt bones and added them to the soup as well, nice bits of tender pork in the soup along with the ham bits.