Pasta and Bean Soup
This rustic Italian dish is the love child of pasta and soup. Enjoyed in both Abruzzo and Molise, it’s quintessential comfort food. The borlotti beans are cooked with pancetta, bay leaves, tomato and parmigiana, before strips of homemade pasta are added to the mix.
SKILL LEVEL: MID
- 2½ cups(500 g) dried borlotti beans
- 1 potato, peeled
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 chunk of pancetta or speck
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- salt flakes
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
- 1 celery stick, thinly sliced
- 1–2sprigs rosemary
- 1 small piece parmigiano or pecorino rind
- 2 x 400 g tins crushed tomatoes
- 2 cups(500 ml) chicken or vegetable stock
- chilli oil or freshly ground black pepper
- freshly grated parmesan and celery leaves, to serve
- 2 cups(300 g) type ‘00’ flour
- pinch of salt flakes
- semolina flour, for dusting
- Soaking time overnight
- Resting time 30 minutes
- Soak the dried borlotti beans in water overnight, changing the water once or twice. Drain.
- Place the beans, potato, bay leaves, pancetta and 1 clove garlic in a large saucepan of water, bring to a simmer and cook for 1–1½ hours or until the beans are tender and cooked through. Season with salt.
- While the beans are stewing away, make the pasta dough. Place the flour on a wooden board, make a well in the centre and drop in the eggs and salt. Mix together using your fingers or a fork, then knead vigorously for about 10 minutes. At first, it will look crumbly, but once your body heat activates the starch in the flour, the dough will change its texture, transforming into a smooth, firm ball. (If you want to speed things up, mix the dough ingredients in a food processor until they resemble wet sand, then tip onto a floured board, bring together with your hands and knead for 1 minute.) Wrap the dough in plastic film and let it rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
- Cut the dough into quarters. Work with one piece at a time and keep the rest wrapped in plastic film to prevent it from drying out. Flatten the piece of dough with the palm of your hand, then pass it through the pasta machine’s widest setting three or four times, folding the dough into three each time. Continue passing the dough, each time through a thinner setting, until you get to the second-last setting or the sheet is roughly 2.5 mm thick. If you don’t have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin and a lot of elbow grease.
- Pass the pasta sheets through the tagliatelle cutter of your pasta machine. Lay the tagliatelle on a board and cut them into 3 cm lengths. Gently place the cut noodles on a floured tea towel, dust with semolina flour and allow to dry slightly at room temperature.
- Now, back to the stew. Transfer the potato, garlic, one-third of the beans and a few tablespoons of the stewing liquid to a food processor and blend until smooth. Return the pureed mixture to the pan. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat, add the celery and cook for 2 minutes. Stir in the rosemary and remaining garlic clove and cook for 1 minute or until fragrant. Add the cheese rind and crushed tomatoes and simmer over low–medium heat for 20 minutes or until reduced slightly. Season with salt.
- Add the tomato sauce to the bean mixture, then add the stock and more salt if needed. Bring to the boil. Drop the pasta straight into the soup and boil for 1–2 minutes or until cooked. The starch in the pasta will make the soup deliciously thick.
- Serve piping hot, finished with a drizzle of chilli oil or a grinding of pepper, a handful of grated parmesan and a few celery leaves.
- Don’t be tempted to use tinned beans for this dish. Give it a bit of love – you won’t regret it.
Oven temperatures are for conventional; if using fan-forced (convection), reduce the temperature by 20˚C. | We use Australian tablespoons and cups: 1 teaspoon equals 5 ml; 1 tablespoon equals 20 ml; 1 cup equals 250 ml. | All herbs are fresh (unless specified) and cups are lightly packed. | All vegetables are medium size and peeled, unless specified. | All eggs are 55-60 g, unless specified.