This isn’t actually MY nonna’s recipe, but my son’s nonna’s recipe. I tweaked it a bit, which is what I always end up doing…I’m notorious for NOT following recipes. Regardless, even if I had followed her recipe, it would never have turned out as good as hers! (Why is that?) Maybe I’ll figure it out one day when I become a nonna ;-)
The other day I asked my mother-in law about her “secret” recipe for making the perfect “pasta e fagioli.”
Initially, I had intended on making this for my son but ended up making enough for dinner that evening. This recipe usually calls for small pasta, such as ditalini, macaroni etc. The only thing I had on hand was orzo, which happens to be the perfect size pasta to make for my 11 month old son.
The pasta was a hit! My son gobbled it up…and my husband did too! (Like Italian father, like Italian son!)
(Makes about 3 1/2 cups)
2 garlic cloves, halved (or diced finely)
1/4 cup each finely diced red onion, celery, and carrot
1/2 tsp. oregano
1 cup orzo (or pasta of choice)
3-4 cups of water (depending on desired consistency)
1/2 cup diced canned tomatoes (San Marzano are the best!)
1 cup white navy beans (or other bean), drained and rinsed
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
Heat oil in a large saucepan for 1-2 minutes on medium heat. Add garlic and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add onion, celery, and carrot and sauté, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes or until translucent.
Add tomatoes and sauté, stirring often to avoid burning, for about 5 minutes.
Add the pasta and 3 cups of water and cook for 12-15 minutes, stirring often so the pasta doesn’t stick to the pan. (Before adding the beans don’t forget to remove the large pieces of garlic, unless finely diced!)
* If most of the liquid has evaporated and the pasta is still not cooked, add 1/4 cup of water at a time, until the pasta is fully cooked.
In the meantime, drain and rinse the beans and set aside.
*TIP: Before adding the beans be sure taste the pasta for seasoning and adjust if needed. If the pasta is too dry nor fully cooked continue to cook, adding about 1/4 of water at a time until you get the desired consistency. It’s ideal to NOT cook the pasta until all the water has evaporated otherwise it will get sticky and clumpy!
Once the pasta is cooked, add the beans, stir to heat through for about 2 minutes. Immediately remove the pot from the heat (the pasta will continue to cook in the pan once removed) then stir in the Parmesan.
Serve with another sprinkle of fresh parmesan and a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil. (I actually remove some of the liquid for my son’s portion to avoid making a mess!)
As an option for younger babies, serve warm puréed or mashed with a fork.
*TIP: When reheating or after defrosting, add more broth or water to get back the creamy, smooth consistency.