I recently invented this soup, and its become one of our favorites – as it turns out, really just a version of pasta e fagioli (Italian for noodles and beans, also known as pasta fazool). It also happens to be one of the easiest soups I’ve ever made, with the exception of the kind that involve opening a can or two. The first time I made it with freshly shelled borlotti beans from Colony Creek Farm (which were incredible), and the second time I used some locally grown, cupboard-aged Calypso beans (like little Yin-Yangs) that had taken up embarrassing residence in my pantry. Good thing dried beans don’t go bad very quickly.
I’ve found that this soup is best when the beans are as soft and creamy as possible. I recently started using a technique that Cook’s Illustrated worked out: soaking the beans in brine, then rinsing them and cooking them at a very slow simmer. It produces incredibly smooth, creamy beans with a soft skin. Well worth doing if you have time to soak them.
This is a seriously warm and comforting soup for a cold, difficult day.
- 1 cup beans, dried or fresh-shelled, or 1 can of white beans
- 1 bay leaf
- 1 pound hot Italian sausage (uncased)
- 2 carrots
- maybe some celery
- some chicken stock, or just water
- 1 cup dried macaroni noodles
If using dried beans: Eight hours before, soak the beans in a bowl of water with a large spoonful of salt mixed in. Before cooking, rinse them thoroughly.
Put the soaked or fresh shell beans into a pan with the bay leaf and cover with water. Bring just to a boil, then turn down to a gentle simmer and cook for an hour or until tender. Time will depend on how old and crotchety your beans are.
Dice the carrots and celery and saute them in olive oil in a soup pot. Add the sausage and cook until the pink is gone (or you can cook the sausage in a separate pan if you want to skim off some of the fat). Add the beans and their cooking liquid, then add stock or water until there’s plenty of liquid in the pan. Bring it all to a boil, add the noodles and cook until they’re as done as you like. Add salt if desired. You could add a can of tomatoes as well, if you like.
Eat right away, or stick into the fridge for later reheating. The longer it sits, the better it tastes.