Polar vortex. Alberta Clipper. If you live in the Deep South and the Best Weatherman on the Planet tells you one of those dreaded occurrences is headed your way – you get cold, cold chills all over your body. Why? It means really cold air is about to invade your area.
Now, for me, that’s wonderful news because I love cooler weather. But, alas, a lot of Southerners don’t. Regardless of you stance on the weather, when cold weather comes knocking it’s time to roll out some of your best cold weather comfort food.
Around my house that tends to be soups, stews, casseroles and anything warm and toasty. Since my Tall & Handsome had unexpected bypass surgery (seems there is heart disease lurking in his family history) he’s craved comfort food even more and I’ve been more than glad to accommodate.
One of our favorite soups is Pasta e Fagioli. We usually satisfy our craving at a well known restaurant chain. But, I thought, “Why not make it at home so we can have it whenever the mood hits?”
Well, the mood hit this week when one of those famous “polar vortex” came visiting and daytime temps were in the 40s and night time temps dipped into the 20s.
After researching and reading up on pasta e fagioli I gathered what I though was the best ingredients and developed my recipe. I also used super lean ground beef, low sodium broth and omitted salt – you can salt at the table it desired. If you’re not watching salt content, go ahead and season to taste.
Also, the pasta is prepared is a separate pot and stirred into the soup pot just before serving. A note about the pasta: Don’t use too much!! Pasta can expand if you have leftovers and too much pasta will expand and become like the Killer Tomatoes that Destroyed Cincinnati. Cooking in a separate pot until it’s al dente and then adding it to the soup and removing the the pot from heat should prevent most of the expansion. If you do have a little “ pasta expansion” thin you soup out the next day with some broth and add a teaspoon or so of vinegar.
Results? “Outstanding!”, says my live-in food critic.
Pasta e Fagioli
1 pound 97% lean ground beef
1 small onion, chopped
3 stalks heart of celery, chopped
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 cup chopped carrots (I find baby carrots are easier to chop)
2 15 ounce cans diced tomatoes
2 8 ounce cans tomato sauce
1 can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can cannellini beans (white kidney beans), drained and rinsed
44 ounces low sodium chicken broth (you can use low sodium beef broth, but DO NOT use regular beef broth because it will be so salty you can’t it eat. Low sodium beef broth is usually hard for me to find.)
1 teaspoon oregano
1 teaspoon basil
Black pepper to taste
Kosher salt to taste if desired
Tabasco Sauce to taste, I use about 10 good dashes
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 – 4 ounces small tube pasta like ditalini that’s already been cooked.
1. Brown meat in a non-stick pan on medium high heat. (We didn’t need oil, but if you do, use cooking spray or a teaspoon or two of olive oil.)
2. Once meat is brown, add chopped onion, celery, carrots and minced garlic and cook about 10 minutes or until vegetables begin to softens.
3. Add the tomatoes, tomato sauce, beans, spices and low sodium chicken broth. Bring to a boil then reduce heat and simmer for 45 minutes.
4. With 10 minutes cooking time left stir in 1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar and Tabasco sauce. Cook pasta in a separate pot just until al dente.
5. When pasta is done, stir into soup, and remove soup from heat.
Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve with you favorite bread.
© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.