Longing for pasta comfort

Published 10:17 am Thursday, February 16, 2012

This recent blast of cold air mixed with an array of stressors in my life has me missing New York and, especially, my mom.

When mom and I get together it usually means one thing—we’re in the kitchen together whipping up some new recipe for dinner.

Mom and I are continuously swapping recipes via mail and email despite the distance between us.

It’s become a favorite past time of mine as of late, being in the kitchen making meals and adding my own spin to them. For the past year I’ve strived to keep my dishes “lighter” with more fresh vegetables and herbs. But at the same time I’m always looking to add that bit of comfort to each dish so it feels like I’m being bad without actually being bad.

When I think of New York there’s always one food that always stands out: pasta, in all its carbohydrate filled glory. While pasta may be good for the soul and heart, it tends to wreak havoc on the waste line. But as with most beloved foods, it’s everything in moderation.

As of lately I’ve been craving a big bowl pasta e fagioli, an Italian soup filled with beans, vegetables, broth and—ding, ding, ding—pasta. The dish is pretty versatile when it comes to what you put in it. A lot of dishes have just veggies while others add hamburger or sausage.

Pasta Fagioli

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 onion

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 celery stalk, chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 15 oz can cannellini beans

15 oz can tomato sauce or crushed tomatoes

1 large bay leaf

1 tbsp basil

1 tbsp parsley

1 tsp oregano

2 (14 oz each) cans fat free chicken broth (or vegetable broth for vegetarians)

2 cups water

Salt and pepper to taste

1-1/2 cups (6 oz) dry Ditalini pasta or other small pasta

Grated parmesan or Romano cheese (optional)

In a pot, sauté onion and garlic in olive oil over medium heat.
Blend the can of beans with one can water in electric blender until almost smooth. This step is optional if you prefer whole beans in your soup.
Add blended beans to pan then add the can of tomato sauce, celery, carrots, chicken broth, basil, bay leaf, parsley, oregano, salt and pepper. Add 1 cup water and bring to slow boil. Let simmer for 20 minutes stirring occasionally. Add pasta and cook uncovered until pasta is al dente, according to pasta directions.
Ladle soup into bowls and top with grated cheese.

Amanda VanDerBroek is a Staff Writer for the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald. For comments and column suggestions email: amanda.vanderbroek@r-cnews.com or call (252) 332-7209.