Pasta Fagioli – Gluten-Free
There was an epic snowstorm the other day in the northeast, and the remnants have finally made it to Florida. Yesterday started out a with a beautiful balmy 70°F, then came the rain, then came the cold. Today it’s in the 50’s, which is actually quite frigid for us Floridians, and tonight it’s expected to dip below freezing. I know, I’m sure many of my northern friends or anyone reading this while buried underneath the snow would consider this heaven right now. So instead of complaining, I made soup! Cold weather is always a good time for soup.
I’ve had these gorgeous cranberry beans sitting around for some time and needed to put them to good use. Cranberry beans are an heirloom variety and cousin to the borlotti bean. They have a rich, velvety texture and mildly sweet flavor. Their distinctive crimson swirls make them as beautiful as they are tasty. Highly prized in many parts of Europe, cranberry beans offer a robust flavor and texture to a variety of cuisines. In Italy, they are a favorite for making pasta Fagioli–and pasta Fagioli is exactly what I had in mind.
I’m especially fond of this soup because my grandmother used to make it all the time. She was half Italian and cooked with an iron wooden spoon, I tell you. Her food was infused with such passion and love, you could literally taste it with each bite. This was especially true for her Pasta Fagioli. A family favorite and loved by everyone who had the pleasure of tasting her food, pasta Fagioli was on demand quite frequently. Besides her apple pie, her Fagioli was my absolute favorite. Although my version is much different, it’s equally as tasty and filled with as much love and passion as hers.
I like my soups brimming with a ton of herbs, spices and, of course, veggies. And when I land a stalk of sexy celery such as this one, you bet I’m using the leaves as part of the seasoning. If you’re one to discard the leaves, I suggest using them next time you make soup. They add such a beautiful layer of depth to the flavor. I also suggest lots of basil. No Italian soup is complete without the sweet undertones of basil. The recipe calls for 2 handfuls, but I definitely used more. If you love basil as much as I do, use more.
Use whatever greens are in season for you. Luckily for me, Kale is still abundant in my neck of the woods. It’s my favorite green to add to soups because its hearty texture keeps the leaves chunky and chewy when cooked through. Not to mention, it adds a powerhouse of nutrients!
A Few Tips:
Careful not to overcook the garlic: I find when I saute the garlic for just a brief moment, the garlic flavor remains more aromatic throughout the cooking process. I won’t have you sauteing the garlic with the onions as most recipes do. Instead, I have you infuse it with the tomato paste for about 30 seconds or so, then adding your veg broth and so forth. Trust me, this step is so worth it!
Herbs & Seasonings: Like I mentioned above, I used the celery leaves from the stalk and lots of basil. If you don’t have celery leaves, no worries. I also used an Italian Seasoning Herb Blend with dried oregano, basil, rosemary, and thyme. If you don’t have a blend, you can use a 1/4 tsp of each of these herbs, or use whatever you have on hand. Play around and see what works for you.
Beans: If you don’t have cranberry beans, pinto beans would make a good substitute. Also, the kidney beans aren’t necessary, I just used them because of their lovely color. However, don’t sweat it if you don’t have any of those in the pantry either. Chickpeas or cannellini beans could substitute as well.
Leave the Pasta al dente: I like to use Tinkyada Brown Rice pasta, however, Quinoa Pasta is an excellent gluten-free option as well. Whichever kind you use, I recommend cooking it very al dente. Once you remove the soup from the heat, salt to taste and adjust seasonings, the pasta will continue to cook for a bit. Also, slightly al dente pasta makes for a better reheat. If the pasta’s cooked too much, it will get mushy. Firm to the bite is how you want your pasta when you take the soup off the heat.
I truly hope you have an opportunity to make this soup before winter is over. You will absolutely love it! As with any soup, the flavors are more potent when served the next day. So make sure you don’t eat it all up the first day! Do you have a favorite winter soup or your own pasta fagioli recipe? If so, I’d love to hear about it in the comments section below. And as always, if you would like more recipes like this make sure to sign up for my newsletter, and stay in touch with me on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.