Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Pasta and Beans

I have been on this Italian - Mediterranean kick for quite some time.  Frankly, I am fascinated with  the European view of food.  I was also a little skeptical of pasta and beans in one dish.  It just did not sound good to me.  However, I was fascinated enough to pick out the recipe. 

When I really thought about it, Olive Garden makes a pasta e fagioli soup. As it turns out, pasta and bean soup is a traditional Italian dish, made from inexpensive ingredients.  It is traditionally made with cannellini or borlotti beans and some type of small pasta, such as elbow macaroni or ditalini.  Onions, garlic, rosemary or basil are used as seasonings.  Most recipes use tomatoes or tomato sauce.  For a more meaty flavor, prosciutto or pancetta can be used.

I got this recipe from The New Mediterranean Diet Cookbook by Nancy Harmon Jenkins.  A note to this recipe stated that you could make the pasta and beans.  And if there were any leftover, you could add stock and make soup.  Two meals for the price of one, I was 'in'.  I used Jacob's cattle beans.  But you could use pinto, cranberry or a similar light reddish bean.  I also used pesto, about 2 tablespoons, instead of the actual basil.  Pesto was in my frig and basil is too expensive.  Yes, I am cheap.

If you want additional vegetables,  sautéed greens, such as kale or spinach.  Winter squash can also be added to this dish.  If this recipe works out, I'm going to try zucchini.

Day 1.  I made the pasta and beans.  My faithful tasters loved it.

Pasta with Pancetta and Beans

Serves 8 to 10.


1 cup dried beans, such as borlotti, cranberry, or pink
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium yellow onion
2 large garlic cloves, minced
3 to 4 ounces pancetta, diced
1 can (14 ounce) whole plum tomatoes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound short pasta, such as farfalle or bowties
¼ cup sliced basil leaves
Freshly grated Parmigiano reggiano


1.  Sort, wash and soak the beans.  Drain.  Transfer to a saucepan, cover with water to a depth of about 1 inch above the beans.  Cover and cook until beans are tender, about 30 minutes to 1 hour.  Set aside, reserving one cup of the cooking liquid.

2.  Chop the onion and set aside.  Add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil to a large heavy pan.  Set over medium-high heat.  Add onion and cook until onion is translucent.  Add garlic and pancetta, continue cooking for about 10 minutes, or until the garlic is soft and the pancetta has started to release its fat.

3.  Add tomatoes, breaking them up with the side of a spoon.  Cook, continuing to break up the tomatoes, until they have reduced to a sauce.  Taste and add salt and pepper.  Add beans the cooking liquid.  Return to a simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, to make a thick sauce. 

4.  In a separate saucepan bring about 5 quarts of salted water to a rolling boil.  Add pasta and cook rapidly until the pasta is almost, but not quite, ready to eat.  Drain and quickly add the pasta to the bean sauce, toss to mix well.  Sprinkle with basil or add pesto.  Drizzle with olive oil and top with cheese.

Note: If desired,beans can be made and frozen in individual containers.  Pasta can be added when ready to eat.

Day 2.  Pasta e fagioli.  I added broth and made soup.  My tasters liked it as well.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Soul Food Junkies

Recently public television aired the documentary Soul Food Junkies.  It was an excellent documentary and very nicely done.  I applaude the producer Bryon Hurt and public televison for tackling this sensitive and diverse subject.  African Americans hold soul food close to their hearts.  Even if we no longer consume soul food on a regular basis, it is still a part of our culture.  Soul food is also very diverse, with everything from collard greens to gumbo.  And no, we don't fry everything we eat.

The soul food diet encompasses lots of healthy foods, such as black-eyed peas, pinto beans, sweet potatoes, watermelon, collard greens, turnips, cabbage.  The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that we consume these foods.  They are good sources of fiber and beta-carotene.  Collards, turnips and cabbage are member of the brassica family of vegetables.  Research suggests that consumption of these vegetables may reduce risk of certain forms of cancer. 

While the soul food diet is not all bad, it can be high in sodium and fat.  And those things need to change.  But let's don't toss out the baby with the wash water. 

The website for Soul Food Junkies has a 'Pin It to Win It' section.  You can go on the website and find healthier soul food recipes and you can also pin your masterpiece.

I am posting my new 'classic', Black-eyed Pea Salad with Sriracha Vinaigrette.  It's a twist on black-eyed peas. 

Black-eyed Pea Salad with Sriracha Vinaigrette

Serves 6.


2½ Tablespoons white wine or apple cider vinegar
2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 to 1½ Tablespoons Sriracha sauce
½ teaspoon salt
1 bag (16 ounce) frozen black-eyed peas
3 celery ribs
2 carrots
1 red or yellow bell pepper
1 cup lean ham, about 4 ounces
cup chopped parsley


1.  In a small bowl, combine vinegar, olive oil, Sriracha sauce, and salt.  Set aside.
2.  Cook black-eyed peas according to package directions.  Drain.  Rinse in tap water.  Drain and set aside. 
3.  Chop the celery.  Peel and grate the carrots.  Chop the bell pepper and ham.  Combine in a large bowl.  Add black-eyed peas and parsley.  Stir to combine.
4.  Add vinaigrette and stir.  Allow salad to sit for at least 10 minutes or up to one day before serving.

Source:  Whole Foods Market