This is the first in a series of guest blog posts. This week I’m delighted to introduce Jill Ulicney, a Brooklyn-based photographer and food lover. You can find her latest photos and drawings at jillieu.tumblr.com and at Instagram via @jillieu.
There used to be a wonderful Italian cafe on Bleecker Street named Scali, which I would frequent for its incredible vegetarian pasta e fagioli soup. Six dollars would get me a generous serving of steaming hearty tomato, white bean, and pasta goodness along with a crusty piece of bread. Since they closed in 2012, I haven’t found a better lunch deal nor have I found a pasta e fagioli that compares to theirs.
Now that winter is here in New York, I’ve been dreaming about a reunion with this soup. After researching, I found countless methods for pasta e fagioli, but nothing that sounded quite like Scali’s version. This is my attempt to recreate my old favorite.
Note: many recipes suggest cooking the pasta in the soup. I chose to cook it separately because I didn’t want the pasta to absorb too much liquid since I prefer a brothy soup.
Pasta e Fagioli
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion chopped
4 cloves garlic chopped
1 medium carrot chopped
1 small rib of celery chopped
1 bay leaf
1 28-ounce can of whole peeled tomatoes
4 cups vegetable stock
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon dried Italian parsley
5 fresh basil leaves torn
1 15-ounce can of white beans
12 ounces small pasta, like malloreddus or ditalini
Heat a large pot with two tablespoons olive oil.
Add onion, garlic, carrot, celery and bay leaf to the pot. Season with salt and pepper and cook for five minutes on medium heat or until onion is tender.
Add canned tomatoes (do not drain), vegetable stock, red pepper flakes and dried parsley and stir to combine.
Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally.
Remove bay leaf (do not discard) and use immersion blender to blend ingredients to preferred smoothness.
Return bay leaf back to the mixture and add basil leaves and white beans.
Cover and simmer for 10 minutes.
Fill a medium pot with water and set to high heat.
When the water begins to boil, “salt it like the sea” as my pasta nerd friend says.
Add the pasta and cook until pasta reaches preferred state
Drain the pasta.
To serve, place pasta in individual bowls and ladle the soup on top.
Grate some fresh parmesan over the soup and enjoy!