This is my (very American) version of the Italian soup, Pasta e Fagioli, meaning pasta with beans. It is one of my favorite soups. Patty, good friend of mine, brought my family over a big pot of it accompanied by a loaf of crusty bread a couple of years ago after I had been in the hospital. It was so thoughtful & so tasty too! I've been hooked on it ever since. It's really more like a stew than a soup, it's so thick. Which is probably one of the reasons that I like it. I make it with ground beef but if you don't eat red meat, pork, chicken, or turkey sausage would be a great substitute. (I'd also recommend substituting chicken broth for beef in that case too!) You can also change the beans, I use cannelloni beans but you could use kidney or any bean/ combination that you'd like. This is definitely one of those recipes that you can make to suit your own taste (or pantry!). If I'm lucky, I have a Parmesan rind in the freezer to add to it. Shhhh, that's my secret ingredient! If you don't have one, don't fret. I don't always either so just leave it out. It will be delicious either way!!
1 lb Lean Ground Beef
1 medium Yellow Onion, chopped
1 medium Carrot, chopped
1 stalk of Celery, chopped
2-3 cloves of Garlic, minced
1- 28 oz can of Tomatoes
1- 8 oz can Tomato Sauce
1- 15 oz can Cannelloni Beans, drained
3-4 cups Beef Broth
1 & 1/2 cup Elbow Pasta
2 cups of Fresh Spinach (packed)
1 Beef Bouillon Cube (or the equivalent in Granules)
1 tsp Garlic Powder
1 & 1/2 tsp dried Italian Seasoning
4-5 dashed of Hot Sauce (Texas Pete or Tabasco)
Salt & Pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan Cheese (for topping)
Drizzle a little olive oil in the bottom of a large pot of dutch oven. Over medium- high heat, brown the ground beef, adding in the onion, carrot & celery. Season with salt & pepper and cook until the beef is no longer pink & the veggies are soft.
Add in the canned Tomatoes (with all their juices), Tomato Sauce, Beef Broth, Bouillon Cube, Garlic Powder & Italian Seasoning. Stir to incorporate it all. Bump the heat down to low & you're ready for the super fun, secret ingredient!!
Here it is. A rind of Parmesan! I hope you haven't been throwing yours out! Once I've grated all the cheese that I can off my wedge of Parmesan, I pop the rind into a plastic bag and put it in the freezer. It's great for seasoning things! It adds a nice, salty Parmesan flavor; not over baring just in the background & it also helps to thicken up the soup. Now, you have to use the real deal here. It has to be Parmigiano-Reggiano & you'll know that it is because it is stamped on the rind.
Once the soup is on low, drop the Parmesan rind in, cover & let it simmer. Let it simmer for as long as you can. I let mine simmer a couple of hours. If you don't have an hour or so for it to cook, don't waste your Parmesan rind on it. Save it for another time. I stir it occasionally, but on you don't really have to worry about it over low heat.
After a couple of hours, I add the beans (drained first). You can add 2 cans of beans if you'd like to bump up the protein or stretch out the soup for more people! If you don't have a couple of hours to let it cook, just add the beans in with the tomatoes & broth. They tend to get mushy if you cook them in too long. I usually simmer mine for 2-3 hours, then add the beans & simmer another hour. You certainly do not have to cook the soup that long. You can easily make this in 30 min-1hr. This is just one of those things that gets better to longer it's sits...which makes it great for left overs!!
When you are ready to eat, cook your pasta, according to the package directions but slightly al dente. Add a couple of big handfuls of fresh spinach to the soup & stir.
Add in the dashes of hot sauce. Even if you don't like spicy food, add in a few. It doesn't make it spicy, it just adds a bit of warmth to the soup. Check your seasonings & adjust if needed.
When the pasta is cooked, you can either add it directly to the soup or add a little pasta to a bowl & ladle the soup over it. I usually do the ladder because I am cooking for 2 & 1/2 so I end up freezing half of my soup. I don't like the freeze the pasta in it, but that's just a personal preference. You can do it either way. My Parmesan rind had mostly disintegrated, but keep in mind that I cooked it for about 4 hours this time. If yours is still in the pot, I would fish it out before serving. Then top the bowls with freshly grated Parmesan.
Yum! Now that's a hearty soup! Enjoy!
This recipe will serve 6-8 people.