It’s been 2 weeks since I brewed my Sugar Shack Porter, my 8th batch of homebrew. It’s a maple porter, if you didn’t get the reference. I used a quart of Vermont Grade B syrup in the boil for this one. I just racked it to the secondary. After brewing, my original gravity came out 10 points high at 1.076. When I checked my gravity today, it was exactly what it was supposed to be at 1.019. Instead of being just over 6% ABV, it’s going to be about 7.5% ABV. I don’t have a problem with that. Continue reading Sugar Shack Porter
While my claim might be a little dreamy, I have never had a Pasta e Fagioli that I have liked better, even at the best of Italian restaurants. The only thing I can come up with is that the restaurants are making a peasant’s dish too classy. The dish is meant to be simple and easy to make with few ingredients. After all, in English, it just means “Pasta and Beans”.
The recipe that follows has been handed down to me from my mother. It’s the same way my paternal grandparents made it (oddly enough, my father doesn’t know the recipe). This is the same recipe that has been my favorite meal since I was pretty young. Being that this is one of those handed down recipes, there’s a lot of improvisation (the garlic, oregano, and basil were my additions).
1 pound spaghetti (I use Barilla)
4 8 oz cans of Hunts Tomato Sauce (the plain one)
1 can of cannellini (white kidney) beans (brands very. I prefer Sclafani. Progresso is no good)
1 medium size yellow onion
6 cloves of Garlic (if you don’t like garlic, use less, if you do, use more)
Olive oil (I use extra virgin, but it’s just what I have in the cabinet)
Oregano (dried flakes)
Basil (dried flakes)
Chop the garlic and onion. Add some olive oil to the bottom of a pot. I usually use a 3 qt pot, but it gets filled pretty close to the rim. Cook the garlic, but don’t burn it. Add some more olive oil and then add the onion and sauté until the onion is translucent. I generally end up with a lot of olive oil in the pot to the point where it’s nearly covering all the onion (I like olive oil). I let it get hot and add the tomato sauce and cannellini beans (including the “bean juice”). After each can of tomato sauce is added, I carefully fill the empty can with water, making sure to mix the excess sauce in, and add that to the pot. I usually rinse the bean can just enough to get some water in it and mixed with the excess “bean juice” and add that to the pot as well. I then add the oregano and basil to taste. You can also probably add salt and/or pepper if you want, but I generally don’t. Let the whole thing come to a brief boil, stirring pretty regularly, and then let it simmer covered.
While the sauce is getting hot, I get the water going for the spaghetti. While I’m waiting for it to come to a boil, I break the spaghetti up into small pieces (about 1-2 inches in length). It’s a lot of work, but it makes eating this a lot easier. By the time I’m done, the water is ready. Cook the spaghetti according to the package. I generally stir the spaghetti with the same utensil used for the sauce. In fact, I’ll add a small amount of the sauce to the spaghetti water (you’ll understand soon enough). When the spaghetti is done, pour about 1-2 quarts of the water used to cook it into something to save it (again, you’ll understand by the end of this), then strain as usual. Add the spaghetti back to the pot and then dump in the sauce and stir it up. The consistency should be almost stew-like. Cover the pot and let it sit for 5-10 minutes before serving. This allows the spaghetti to soak up the flavors from the sauce.
Serve it in soup bowls or pasta bowls. I usually add a good amount of grated parmesan or romano (or a mix of the 2) cheese to it and mix it in. It’s best eaten with a good crusty Italian bread for dipping.
This recipe makes a lot. I don’t know the exact number of servings, but I always end up with a lot leftover. This is where that water you saved comes in. I add the leftovers to a container for the fridge. But usually by the time I do it, it has thicken up quite a bit. I add some of that water (which already has a lot of the flavors mixed in) to loosen it up a bit. If you add too much of the water, it will be bland. If you don’t add enough, it will be really thick.
I’m still perfecting this each time I make it. I have yet to have a brand of beans besides Sclafani that meets my approval. Sclafani may not be available in all parts of the country (I can get it in RI or CT). You can try making it with 2 15 oz cans of the tomato sauce (always use the plain Hunts). I’ve made it really bland. I’ve made it overpowering. It all comes down to the spices. Now, the one thing I can’t remember (which is why I said you can add it if you want) is if my mother used salt and/or pepper in the sauce. That might be why it sometimes comes out bland. Though, on that same note, I’ve had it be absolutely fantastic without adding that stuff. I do salt the pasta water (adding a good amount of salt after it’s boiling, but before adding the pasta).
If you try this or make some changes, let me know what you think in the comments. I really don’t care what anyone says. This will always be the world’s best Pasta e Fagioli to me. Enjoy!