Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Pasta e faglioli.

You know how, after a bit of a blogging break, it's customary to explain how busy you've been?

Well, actually, I've been spending my evenings watching bad glorious television and eating popcorn* with butter and brewers yeast.

So, yeah, I've been really busy. Eating.**

Tonight I made one of my favorite recipes, and I thought it would be fun to share it here. It's kidney bean and orzo soup with carrots, a variation on pasta e faglioli. This recipe comes from the book Italian Classics. Have I mentioned that we are devoted  followers of the Cook's Illustrated/America's Test Kitchen folks in our house? Okay, so their recipes are often a bit involved (as my friend Melissa once joked, "It calls for the sanctified tears of the Mother Mary? Well ... okay ... if America's Test Kitchen says so, sanctified tears it is."), but the results are really reliable and the cooking-nerd-delight factor cannot be beat.

Anyway, this recipe is not that involved. It's actually really easy. I can make it on a weeknight after I get home from work. I love this stuff, and I don't even like kidney beans (don't ask me how it works, but it magically transforms kidney beans into yummy). And while it's pretty healthy, it's not health-foody: Even my carnivore husband and ridiculously picky toddler ask for seconds of this soup/stew.

It can be easily made vegetarian by substituting vegetable broth for chicken broth and skipping the pancetta.

But, um, big shocker: it's really good with chicken broth and pancetta too (and has a higher rate of success with the carnivore husband).

This recipe makes enough for my entire household to have seconds with enough leftover for me to bring to work for two or three days. Those thrifty Italians!

Peasant food.

Kidney Bean and Orzo Soup with Carrots 
(from Italian Classics, by the editors of Cook's Illustrated)

3 tbs olive oil
3 oz pancetta, chopped fine
1 medium onion, chopped
2 medium carrots, chopped
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp dried oregano
1/4 tsp red pepper flakes
2 14.5 oz cans of diced tomatoes
1 parmesan cheese rind
2 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
4 cups chicken broth
1 tsp salt
8 oz orzo
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley leaves
Ground black pepper
1 cup freshly grated parmesan

- Heat oil in dutch oven or other big pot, add pancetta and saute until browned, about 5 minutes. Add onion and carrots and cook until softened, about 4-5 minutes. Add garlic, oregano, red pepper flakes, and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute.
- Add tomatoes and scrape any browned bits from the pan. Add the cheese rind and beans. Bring to a boil and then lower heat and simmer for 10 minutes. Add chicken stock, 4 cups of water, and salt. Raise the heat to high and bring to a boil. Add orzo and cook until tender, 13-15 minutes.
- Off the heat, remove and discard cheese rind. Stir in the parsley and season with pepper and additional salt if needed.
- Ladle into bowls and garnish with a drizzle of olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Now please excuse me, I need to go make some popcorn.

* We use a cool, old-school, stove-top contraption to make our popcorn. It's awesome.

** Well, in addition to completely ripping out our backyard, starting a new garden from scratch, chasing an almost three-year-old, holding down a day job, and growing a new life, that is. Back off.


  1. Yay! I was reading through this thinking how I should recommend you deglaze the onions with a hearty Italian red, because then you would need to open a bottle of wine while cooking, and that is a wonderful thing to do, but then I scrolled down to this comment box (in which I am right now!) and see you have labelled this recipe "Cooking, Pregnancy." That made me scroll down faster for any belly shots, and you did not dissapoint! Yay! Congratulations!

    1. Haha! Actually, since I can't drink (more than a sip of) wine, I've been cooking with it a lot more. It would be really good in this recipe, although it doesn't need it (it's amazing and rich using just tomatoes to deglaze). But then I have to watch my husband drink the rest, which is fine, but definitely not as fun as drinking it myself. Humph.

  2. This made me think of you today =)

    1. "Since we won't be eating until next Wednesday, I'll make a snack." I love it!! Oh, too true, too true.

  3. Did you know that it's impossible to resist clicking on a link called "contraption?" Even if you are the owner of the item in question? True fact.

    1. That is hilarious. I can definitely see that, though. Thank you for generously allowing us to use your popcorn maker every single night for like a month. We do go through some obsessions in our house. :-)

  4. Oooo, yum! My kids have been asking for soup lately (Minestrone, to be precise - but soup in summer? Go figure!) - think I'll be trying this out.....

    1. This is a lot easier than minestrone! Although that sounds really good right now too. We're finally getting some rain after a unseasonably warm winter, which may be why I'm suddenly all about soup.

  5. I don't remember saying that thing about sanctified blood. Was I really funny once upon a time? How delightful. This soup sounds amazing. And yes, I found that link posted by Meg painfully funny. "How many pages was the recipe?" "Twenty." Ack! I think I will put this on the menu for next week.

  6. So, so hungry now....damn you!

    1. Do you have any room left in your stomach for food these days? Or are you in that difficult "starving to death even while still suffering from the last meal" phase?

  7. your peasant food caption made me lol :) this looks really yummy! i have this book too so I'm gonna have to try it out one of these nights (also an america's test kitchen nerd, or rather Rich is and has most of the books). Also that popcorn contraption looks

    1. Somehow, I could totally see you and Rich being ATK fans. You know, you're scienc-y people who can appreciate precision and experimentation and all that. The contraption is pretty silly, really, but certainly no more silly than having an air popper. We try to get our (housemate's) money's worth from it. :-)

  8. Yum, that looks good... and I also clicked on the 'contraption' link but I've never seen one of those popcorn makers before. Looks fabulous! I generally make mine in a brown paper bag in the microwave which is remarkably good (for microwave) but leaves a lot unpopped. I think I need to keep an eye out for a 'contraption'!
    Oh and I had to look up what orzo was... think we'd call it risoni although that's probably smaller - whatevs, small pasta :) Oh and I've always wanted a recipe that uses parmesan rind. I don't think the chickens really appreciate it as much as they should.

    1. One of the secrets of the "contraption" is that it requires some oil. So the popcorn is not as "healthy" but whoa, is it delicious! And the number of unpopped kernels is really low in my experience.

      That's so funny. I would have provided an Australian translation if I had realized it was necessary! :p Yes, any small pasta will do. Orzo is a very small pasta that almost looks like rice (it expands on cooking to something larger than a rice grain). But this recipe is a variation on a different pasta e faglioli that calls for ditalini, which is a very small elbow. So any small pasta would work.

      This weekend: Hot cross buns. Yum.


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