There is music inside this pot of beans.
If only I could play it.
One line of the lyric is all that I can muster: Pasta fazool-a make-a weak-a man-a strong.
It is my mother's voice that I hear, and she is singing a tune that her father would sing to her. I have added the "-a"s for authenticity. My grandfather, an immigrant, spoke with a very heavy accent, and his daughter, when mimicking his singing, did her best to achieve her father's countenance.
Not even Uncle Dominic can remember more of the song than I can, and so you are hereby spared any further comment on this topic. (You're welcome.)
Anyway, about the dish. It is pasta and beans. Its proper name is pasta e fagioli. It is perhaps the easiest thing to prepare this side of warming tap water in a saucepan. And, according to the people in my orbit anyway, it is the most comforting bowlful of goodness that you will ever put a spoon to.
I put a spoon to the stuff just a few days back. It was already cold — and rainy — here in Maine (don't get me started) and I was staring at the cannellini beans just harvested from my garden. What can I say? The pasta fazool song came bursting into my brain, and so here we are.
If you know the dish, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, well, everybody could use a little music in their lives, right?
Pasta e fagioli (Pasta fazool)
Note: This is a big batch, as I had a lot of cannellini beans this year, so please feel free to halve this recipe. Further, I added sausage meat on this occasion. This is not traditional, and resulted only because there were sausages in the fridge that required cooking.
14 cups water
4 cups fresh or dried beans (I used cannellini but any type will do)
6 garlic cloves, lightly smashed
2 Tbsp rosemary
1 piece of rind from Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
Salt to taste
3 Italian sausage, meat removed from the casings (optional)
1/2 lb. pasta of your choice (I used shells)
Grated cheese and freshly ground black pepper
In a large pot of boiling water add the beans, garlic, rosemary, cheese rind and salt.
About 20 minutes before the beans are cooked to your liking add the sausage meat (if you're using it).
Just before the beans are fully coked, add the pasta and cook until al dente.
In a bowl top with grated cheese and ground pepper and serve.
Sing — or don't sing — my grandfather's song. Makes no difference to me.