Pasta e fagioli (Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall)

Dean Martin crooned, “When the stars make you drool just like a pasta fazool, that’s amore!” using the American-Italian slang for this dish. He had a point – simple, tasty and delicious, it’s easy to fall for this gutsy soup. The bacon can be replaced with pork rind, cooked pig’s trotter or cotechino sausage. Also, if you really can’t be bothered with soaking and cooking dried beans, a 400g tin, drained, will do. Serves six to eight.

3 tbsp olive oil or rapeseed oil
2 onions, diced
1 small sprig rosemary
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
1 bay leaf
2 carrots, diced
1 celery stick, diced
3 garlic cloves, minced
4 rashers unsmoked streaky bacon, diced (optional)
400g tinned plum tomatoes
150g dried borlotti beans (or haricot or cannellini), soaked overnight, drained, put in enough cold water to cover them by  7cm and cooked until tender
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
100g small pasta tubes, such as tubetti
30g parmesan, finely grated
4 tbsp finely chopped parsley

To serve
Parmesan and extra-virgin olive oil or rapeseed oil

Warm the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium-low heat. Add the onion, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf, and sauté very gently until the onion just begins to turn golden. Add the carrots, celery and garlic, and sauté for five minutes.

Remove the rosemary sprig, raise the heat slightly and add the bacon, if using. Cook, stirring, for five minutes, then add the tomatoes, mashing them slightly against the side of the pan, and simmer for 20 minutes. Add the cooked beans, give everything a good stir and cook for five minutes more. Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Scoop out a cupful of the beans and veg, puree them in a food processor or blender, then return to the pan. Stir and season with salt and pepper. If at this stage the soup is not liquid enough to cook the pasta, simply add a bit more stock or water. Bring the soup to a boil, add the pasta and cook for four to five minutes, until it is cooked through but still has a bit of bite to it.

Take the pan off the heat, remove and discard the bay leaf, and stir in the grated parmesan and chopped parsley. Serve in warmed bowls, topping each one with a swirl of oil and a few parmesan shavings.

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