THE RECIPE BOX - Pasta e Fagioli is a perfect winter meal

THE RECIPE BOX - Pasta e Fagioli is a perfect winter meal

LINCOLN – January has come and gone in a blur, and as usual I’m thinking about getting rid of a few extra holiday pounds and eating healthier before the warm weather comes bringing with it short sleeves and inevitably less camouflage.

Everyone can create delicious and healthy meals providing that they have a well-stocked kitchen. So, to start the year off in a better place, I’m recommitting to taking good care of myself and being prepared.

With a brand new year, we get a free pass to start all over trying to live up to our best potential. Don’t be boring in the culinary department, buy a new cookbook, or even better, dig out one of the old ones.

That’s exactly what I did the week of the recent Sunday rain and ice storm. I got this whim to make Pasta e Fagioli – for the life of me I don’t even know why. I’m not a soup lover and I have never even ordered the stuff before in a restaurant – let alone make it myself.

For some reason it called to me. I dug out some Italian cookbooks, my tried-and-true Betty Crocker, a few of those compilation church cookbooks, and I did not find one recipe for it. I ended up on a Google search and there I found a few choices.

I opted for the “slow cooker” version, mostly because I thought the power might go out due to the ice storm brewing outdoors and if I made it early enough in the afternoon it would still be edible and kept warm enough to eat.

The recipe called for a pound of ground beef, some ditalini pasta, vegetables, broth, beans and stewed tomatoes. I substituted the beef broth in the original recipe for vegetable broth, which I prefer. Of course, I added freshly grated cheese and a nice crusty bread when I served it.

The volume it made was more than just two of us could bare, and three days later, I had had enough. So next time I’ll cut the recipe in half if just for the two of us. The spices were perfect and it was definitely hearty. Turned out to be a perfect snowy day kind of meal.


Pasta e Fagioli

Ingredients:

1 tbsp. olive oil

1 lb. lean ground beef

2 whole carrots, diced

4 celery stalks, diced

1 med. onion, diced

28-oz. can crushed tomatoes

2 cans (14.5-oz. each) vegetable broth

2 whole bay leaves

1 tsp. dried oregano

1 tsp. dried basil

1/2 tsp. dried thyme

Salt & pepper to taste (1 tsp. salt, 1/2 tsp. pepper)

1 can (15-oz.) cannellini beans, drain & rinse

1 can (15-oz.) red kidney beans, drain & rinse

1 cup ditalini pasta, uncooked

Directions:

1. Add olive oil to skillet and brown the beef until no longer pink. Drain, place in bottom of a slow cooker.

2. Add all remaining ingredients except the pasta and beans.

3. Cook on low heat setting for 7-8 hours, or high heat for 3-4 hours. Thirty minutes before serving, stir in raw pasta and beans. Season with salt and pepper. Remove bay leaves before serving. Serve hot and sprinkle with freshly grated cheese and have a nice crusty bread. Enjoy!