The Quick Fix – Pasta e Fagioli Napoletana

The first time that I ever visited Italy was when I was nine years old in the mid-eighties. We stayed in Riccione for a week, and most of my memories include tons of swimming. In addition, I remember being deeply disappointed when we went for a day trip to Venice and I discovered that the city wasn’t at all like in the Donald Duck comics!

This vacation also marked my first experiences of real Italian food. Our hotel included a half pension and we would have proper Italian three- and four-course meals every night. Today’s recipe reminds me of those broth-based pastas that our waiter would expertly serve us back then.

“Pasta e fagioli” is apparently a very typical Italian dish with lots of different versions of different regions, and this one comes from Naples. I have no idea how it differs from the similar dishes of the other regions though as I was quite hungry when Googling for something to eat so I didn’t have the patience for proper research… Anyway, the list of its ingredients is quite simple, healthy and affordable – yet the end result is super tasty. It is also very easy and quick to prepare even after a busy day in the office when you are so hungry that you don’t have the patience for proper food blog research!

Neapolitan Pasta with Beans

Serves 4

350 g cooked borlotti beans

250 g pasta (of your choice)

1 garlic clove

1 stalk of celery

6 cherry tomatoes

fresh basil

olive oil

salt, pepper

Prepare the vegetables: clean the celery (and cut it into a few big chunks if needed for your kettle), tomatoes and basil, and peel the garlic clove. Place the beans in a kettle and cover them with water. Add the vegetables and some olive oil. Cook for about 10 minutes. Add the pasta and some salt to the kettle and continue cooking for another 10 minutes. Season with pepper to your taste.

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Miss Bean – Fagioli in Umido

In addition to the Italian kitchen being a wilderness of culinary adventures, it can also sometimes represent a bit of a jungle linguistically. At least for a Finn. I still haven’t forgotten the nightmares of briciole and often spend sleepless nights wondering what an earth a sformato is supposed to be (well, ok, not really – I just liked the dramatic sound of it).

The name of today’s dish made me already slightly nervous when trying to translate it with an on-line dictionary. “Damp beans” is not something that you would like to promote even by Cucina Fintastica’s somewhat less strict standards. Fortunately apparently the expression “in umido” can be translated as stew.

I have recently been participating in a 6-time cooking course in which we make Italian dishes from different regions of Italy in Italian (naturalmente) and we made this bean stew in one those lessons. It is a very common, simple and tasty way of preparing beans in Italy, and can serve as a side dish or even a vegetarian meal of its own. There seem to be dozens of versions of this dish, and some of them also include pancetta which you can add to your taste if you are not a semi-vegetarian (i.e. a non-red-meat eater) such as myself!

Bean Stew

1 can of beans

1/4 of a mid-sized onion

2 bay leaves

olive oil

tomato puree (from a tube)

chilli pepper

salt

Slice the onion into small pieces and gently fry it in a pan with some olive oil, chopped chilli and the bay leaves. Add the beans (with their water in the tin, or drain them first and add some water from tap) and some tomato puree (about 1/3 of the tube) and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes. Season with salt to your taste.