Monday, February 2, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli, Smoky Cheese Fries

Did I post the pasta e fagioli before? OH well, here it is again! This is my go-to soup recipe and almost the whole family loves it. I made it for the "big b-day bash" we had on Saturday for myself, my brother, my other brother (Darryl), and my grandmother. We don't all share a birthday but it's easiest to get us all together on one weekend. Except for when my brother's boss calls him in because his replacement called off. *not cool, employer*
So I made a double batch, which is not a 30-minute meal, and my mom got impatient, but it all worked out anyway. I can take a pic of the leftovers, because I didn't get any of the food that day, or I could just appease you with pictures of the cakes (yes cakes)...later, my friends. My camera card does not accompany me to work, alas.

Pasta E Fagioli
courtesy Rachel Ray


* 2 tablespoons (2 turns around the pan) extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/8 pound (about 3 slices) pancetta, chopped
* 2 (4 to 6-inch) sprigs rosemary, left intact
* 1 (4 to 6-inch) sprig thyme with several sprigs on it, left intact
* 1 large fresh bay leaf or 2 dried bay leaves
* 1 medium onion, finely chopped
* 1 small carrot, finely chopped
* 1 rib celery, finely chopped
* 4 large cloves garlic, chopped
* Coarse salt and pepper
* 2 (15 ounce) cans cannellini beans
* 1 cup canned tomato sauce or canned crushed tomatoes
* 2 cups water
* 1 quart chicken stock
* 1 1/2 cups ditalini
* Grated Parmigiano or Romano, for the table
* Crusty bread, for mopping

NOTES: I find that the rosemary leaves fall off the more you stir. Just an FYI. I used tomato sauce, and I omit the celery because most of the fam are not fans.


Heat a deep pot over medium high heat and add oil and pancetta. Brown the pancetta bits lightly, and add herb stems, bay leaf, chopped vegetables, and garlic. Season vegetables with salt and pepper. Add beans, tomato sauce, water, and stock to pot and raise heat to high. Bring soup to a rapid boil and add pasta. Reduce heat to medium and cook soup, stirring occasionally, 6 to 8 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Rosemary and thyme leaves will separate from stems as soup cooks. Remove herb stems and bay leaf from soup and place pot on table on a trivet. Let soup rest and begin to cool for a few minutes. Ladle soup into bowls and top with lots of grated cheese. Pass crusty bread for bowl mopping.

For my next trick... we had a small football-related get-together on Sunday to watch a little game, you may have heard of it, superbowl. There were hot dogs, sauerkraut, quesedillas, Belly Busters (giant subs from a local place), the hubs' buff chicken dip, and of course because we didn't have enough of it, cheese fries. I found this because I was looking for recipes using tomato paste as someone on WC had some left over. It involved chiles in adobo, and while I've always read about them, I have never used them... well now I have some left over so I have an excuse to make more smoky chile recipes!
These were ok, mostly because I don't think I used enough cheese. I doubled the recipe which may be the culprit - so folks, just use the recipe. But everyone liked it, and next time I will actually put the sauce on the fries and be able to serve that way instead of taking it with me to another house! mmm...cheese...

Smoky Cheese Fries
also from Rachel Ray


* 1 large package frozen waffle cut fries
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
* 2 tablespoons tomato paste
* 2 cups milk
* 2 cups grated Cheddar
* 2 chipotles in adobo, chopped, plus 2 spoonfuls sauce
* Salt


Bake waffle fries to package directions. Heat butter in a small pot over medium heat and whisk in flour. Cook the flour a minute then add the tomato paste. Cook paste a minute then whisk in milk. When sauce bubbles, stir the cheese and chipotles into it. Season the sauce with salt, to taste.

Remove fries from oven when crisp and golden brown. Spoon the thick cheese sauce over waffle fries and serve.

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