Here is a great way to use beans. This Pasta e Fagioli is true Italian ‘soul food’ and a meal in itself. From start to finish you can have this nutritious stick-to-your-ribs soup on... the table in about 40 minutes. If you have homemade beans, add their liquor, if you don’t, use canned beans — it’ll be just as good. If you can’t find fresh basil, don’t used dried, use flat leaf Italian parsley instead.
Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil over a medium high heat in a large casserole or saucepan, add the onion, carrot, and celery and sauté until they begin to soften. Lower the heat to medium, cover and sweat the vegetables for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally.
Add the garlic and sauté for 2 minutes. Mix in the parsley and sauté for a minute.
Mix in the tomatoes and the basil, and cook over medium high heat until the tomatoes look saucey and become orangey in color. Add the beans and stock, and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to medium and simmer until the beans start to break up and the soup thickens. Mash a few of the beans against the side of the pot to thicken the soup. Adjust the seasoning.
Just before serving, add the pasta to the simmering soup. When almost al dente, turn off the heat and let the soup sit for 5 to 10 minutes. Serve each bowl drizzled with a little of the remaining extra virgin olive oil, a grind of fresh black pepper, and freshly grated Parmesan.
If you can’t find fresh basil, don’t used dried, use flat leaf Italian parsley instead or you can stir a teaspoon or two of pesto into the soup when the pasta is cooked.
If using canned beans, use 3 (15-ounce) cans of plain low sodium cannellini or kidney beans. Drain and rinse well before using to remove their salt. Add an extra 1 cup of water in step 3 when adding the stock.