Well darlings, it's a coooooold winter's night in Miami and about to get colder! Ok, I lie. It's probably low 70's at the minimum right now but it's about to get down to the 60's!! BRRR!! Ok, I know that isn't squat compared to when I lived in Siberia, oops, I mean Chicago, but that IS COOL for weather here in Southern Florida. Darlings, even La Diva craves the cold-weather foods from her younger years in Michigan and Illinois and will find any excuse to make them again!
I had a TON of greens in my share this week and it WAS a bit chilly today so I thought a good hearty peasant soup was in order: Pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian soup of pasta and beans. However, today's version wasn't so much a soup as a "broth-y" pasta.
I started out sweating some onions and browning a good half a cup of diced pancetta. Ahhh, pancetta! It's what La Diva uses many times as a base when she wants to flavor dishes like soups, casseroles or pastas without the heavy inclusion of red meat or poultry. The great thing about pancetta, which is an Italian bacon, is that you can get so much flavor by using a small amount. For future flavorings, remember the pancetta!
So, the onions and bacon are browning in olive oil over a medium heat, I then add some garlic (which I always add towards the end so as not to over-brown and turn it bitter), a can of drained cannellini beans and about a half of a large box of fat free chicken broth. I bring it to a boil, get the pasta water going and wash the greens. Yes, the greens! Of course you know that La Diva gets the farm share each week, I am certainly eating plenty of so-very-good-for-you organic greens! Today I'm using a generic bunch of "braising greens" which certainly includes the pei tsai and some other red-stemmed plant! Reducing the heat to a simmer, I let the beans take in the flavor of the broth, bacon and vegetables for as long as it takes the pasta water to boil and pasta to cook....about 20 minutes.
Pesto for pasta fagioli? Why not? Since, La Diva has two huge bunches of cilantro and nothing to use it with for the next few days and as it goes off so quickly, I thought, why not make a little pesto with it? I got out my trusty food processor, put in a bit of parmeggiano reggiano and garlic and process until small and crumbly. (Now darling, I KNOW it's very tempting to buy the cheaper, domestic version of this cheese but for flavor, you REALLY MUST invest in the real thing! REAL parmeggiano reggiano is like a French champagne and the true Italian version comes from specific cheese-making regions of Italy, NOT from America. I find the domestic versions smell and taste like spew, so please, avoid like the plague!) Then I coarsely chop the washed cilantro (two bunches, down to to the stems) and add to the processor along with some extra virgin olive oil and pistachios. Yep, pistachios. I don't have any pine nuts and love the verdant color and flavor of the nut with the cilantro, so piquant and lively! From there I process a bit longer, adding more oil and a bit of salt to taste, until a smooth, bright green paste is formed. I have manage to get a generous cup of the pesto out of the processor and put a few tablespoons aside for tonight's dinner. The rest I put into a jar, covering the surface with extra virgin olive oil to preserve for another time.
As the pasta cooks, I add the greens for the last few minutes of cooking. I don't want to completely decimate the greens but slightly wilt them, keeping their leafy freshness intact. I decided to use orecchiette pasta, which is called that because "orecchio" means ear in Italian and the little disk-shaped pastas are meant to resemble ears. I use them for this dish because to me they look like little cups, perfect for holding the broth. And also because DJ Nevah L8 likes their chewy texture!
Ok, darlings, lets put it all together. I ladle a bit of the "soup" into a shallow pasta bowl. I add the pasta and give it a quick stir. Season with some sea salt, black pepper, and grate a bit more of the cheese on top. The final touch: a generous dollop of the cilantro pistachio pesto. The pasta fagioli was so flavorful on it's own, it truly could have done without the pesto....but...it just added this gorgeous and lush brightness to the dish, really taking the flavor up "a notch." An easy, quick and satisfying dish for a winter's day....even if it is Florida!
By the way, darlings, La Diva wanted to show her appreciation to DJ Nevah L8 who TRIES SO HARD to help me by doing various techie things like take my food photos, shoot my videos and of course SPIN HIP BEATS at all my classes, so give him a bit of love and an "A" for effort!
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