Thursday, May 24, 2007

Rustic Pasta and Beans

Because my Sunday's are so busy, and I don't want to resort to eating frozen TV dinners, I tend to make simple, one dish meals on that day. Pasta and rice dishes are high on the list.

Mormons are also into food storage, or at least they're supposed to be. Our Church leaders have counseled us to keep at least a year's worth of food, along with some water, and rotate it as we go on. Beans and dried pasta are easy to store, and the following dish takes advantage of that.

Rustic Pasta and Beans

This recipe was inspired by a pasta and beans recipe from the Veneto area of Italy. They don't do a lot of pasta there, but they do like their beans. This dish has plenty of both. I prefer using fresh whole wheat pasta cut into "tagliatelle" with this dish, even though the flavors of the sauce tend to drown out the mildly nutty flavor of the pasta. Fettuccini or wide egg noodles would be good, too.


1/2 pound tagliatelle pasta
1 1/2 cups cooked ham, cubed
1/3 cup bacon, crumbled
2 cups dried kidney beans (cook according to package directions or use canned)
2 stalks of celery, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
1/2 onion, chopped
1/2 cup beef or chicken stock (or use bullion)
1 clove of garlic, minced
1/4 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp dried basil
1/4 tsp dried marjoram
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil for sautéing
Parmesan cheese and parsley for garnish

Cook the beans ahead of time, if you need to. Cook the bacon in a large skillet until nice and crispy. Remove, let cool, and crumble. Chop the vegetables and sauté them in a small amount of oil until the onions just start to brown. Add the garlic and cook a minute or two longer. Add the ham, cooked bacon, and beef stock to the pan. Cover and simmer on low.

Bring six cups of water to a boil. Add pasta and a pinch of salt. Cook until pasta is just barely al dente, and drain. Add the sauce to the pasta and cook for a few minutes until the pasta is done.

Top with grated parmesan and parsley if desired. If you really want to get rustic, instead of grating the cheese, cut a small chunk of it and stick it in the middle of the dish right before serving.

This dish will really fill you up, so don't dish up too much at once. I like to serve it in bowls, for some reason, instead of plates. Maybe it's because we have more bowls than plates are our house. You may also want to have an orange or some other citrus fruit as a dessert to counteract the nitrates in the bacon and ham.

Vegetarian Option

This dish works well for vegetarians, if you take out the ham and bacon. When I do it that way, I'll drizzle a bit of extra olive oil over the top for added flavor.

Either way, I like adding an extra clove of garlic and plenty of black pepper to give it a bit more kick.


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