December 30, 2005


Concetta's visit wouldn't be complete without a big batch of homemade pasta e fagioli, or, more affectionately, pasta vajole, pasta fazoo, pasta fazool, past 'n beans. There are as many variations of the recipe as there are Italians. But the one you grow up eating is always your favorite. I've searched the Internet for recipes to get an idea of what other people are eating. I was completely disgusted by this bowl of gruel disguised as bad chili which claims to be a "copycat version of the soup from the Olive Garden." 'Nuff said.

Concetta used dried great northern beans soaked overnight. She made her own pasta, small chewy squares which we have always called tuh-CUTS. I've spelled it the way it sounds. I'm not at all sure what the word is or where it's from. I've searched on the Internet for this word in many, many spelling variations and can't find info on it. The word is most definitely a product of the Italian dialect spoken by my grandparents. I will continue my search. These are not what are known as quadrattini. Quadrattini are way too small. If you know how to make cavatelli, you know how to make tuhcuts. Once your dough is rolled out, you cut long strips in the dough one way and then the other, like a checkerboard pattern. The tuhcuts are little squares of the checkerboard. To make cavatelli you start rolling all the little squares with your thumbs. Concetta also used the tomatoes we canned in September. Sometimes I like little meatballs in the dish but usually I don't. No meatballs this time. No meat at all, except that some of the liquid was homemade chicken stock from Julie. But just a small amount. What makes the pasta fagioli thick is some of the pasta water and you don't want the dish to taste like chicken. It needs to taste like beans, pasta, tomatoes and grated parmasean. Don't forget those celery leaves! At some point in the history of commercial grocery stores, the produce distributors started cutting off the tops of celery. Probably because some poor eaters and lame cooks didn't want it. That's a bunch of crap. Celery leaves are essential for any stock and soup. But they are hard to find. You have to pry apart the celery to inspect the innards in the hopes that there are leaves somewhere. Anyway, the past 'n beans is wonderful.

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