A few days ago, over lunch with some of my colleagues, the conversation took a turn to cooking at home (and I swear I didn’t bring it up) and it was generally acknowledged by the group that while cooking at home is fantastic, it’s very difficult to keep up with during the week after a long day at work. Given that I have the fortunate situation of being able to come home to dinner most nights thanks to Michael having a non-commute (a walk the length of one iPod song does not a real commute make), I kept my mouth shut lest I come across as braggy at all.
Besides–this would then lead me to explain that I spend three hours each day on public transportation, and really, there’s no need to start moaning on who has the worst commute, right?
Well, I’m not sure if my silence went for or against me that day, because later when I called Michael to let him know that circumstances would have me coming home much earlier than my normal 7:00-ish time, he challenged me to take over the reigns for dinner, promising that I could make anything I wanted:
Anything? I asked, curious to how uninterested in cooking he actually was.
Yes, anything, him probably thinking that I would do some sort of pasta dish. It’s all on you.
Do we have pancetta? I asked, wheels whirring in my head.
No, but you can get some if you want.
Well then! I took that express from White Plains back into Harlem-125th, promptly(!) boarded a M60 and took myself down to Westside Market to pick up the few provisions I needed for pasta e fagioli, which was the dish that had firmly implanted itself in my cravings as well as in my mind. Maybe it seems counter-intuitive to make soup on a rather hot day, but knowing that we both had enjoyed larger-than-normal lunches, this would be an ideal light meal to enjoy on our last night in prior to heading down to Pennsylvania for a long weekend.
More importantly, it only took a little more than an hour to assemble–and that includes transit to and from the market, a quick stop at the wine shop, prep time and cook time. Perhaps it wasn’t as quick as the typical pre-made meal that many at Westside were queueing to purchase, but I can tell you that I was in and out of the store much faster than any of the people with a takeaway carton in hand.
This is in part based on a Giada DeLaurentiis recipe that I made many alterations to–in particular the addition of red wine. It was part out of necessity (I only had one carton of stock on hand) but I realized in other soups that the wine adds some nice body and depth of flavor that pairs well with the pancetta and the cheese and the beans, and the water balanced the aromatics of the wine and the saltiness of the broth. Served with a roll or two of fresh bread, and you’ve got a dinner that can be assembled relatively quickly whether you have a well-stocked pantry or you have to dash to the store.
Pasta e Fagioli a la minuto di New York
Serves 2 with leftovers
- 1/4 lb pancetta, cubed
- One onion, finely chopped
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 4 sprigs rosemary (left whole)
- 1 14.5 oz can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 14.5 oz can red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup ditalini or other small pasta
- 1 32 oz carton chicken stock
- 3/4 cup water
- 3/4 cup dry red wine
- 1 rind of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese (if you have on hand; otherwise grate 3/4-1 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese)
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper or grains of paradise
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
In a heavy-bottomed pan over medium heat, warm the olive oil and butter together. Add the onions, and garlic and cook for about 2 minutes, then add the pancetta and rosemary and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the broth, beans, parmesan rind (if using), wine and water; cover, bringing the pot to a boil over high heat and then letting it simmer for 10 minutes or so on medium heat. If desired, discard the rosemary sprigs now (I just let them sit in there, though discarding would likely be a better idea). Add the ditalini and bring the soup back to a boil to let the pasta cook until al dente, or about 8-9 minutes. Season soup with pepper or grains of paradise (our preferred mode of spice).
Ladle soup into bowls, sprinkle Parmigiano-Reggiano on top if not using the rind, and serve!