1 package of store-bought tubetti (450 g)
For cooking pasta
A big pot of water
1/2 tablespoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, whole [traditional method] or chopped
1 cup dried white cannelloni beans or white pea beans (or 1 can of cooked beans, 19 oz)
1/4 cup water in which beans were soaked in
1/5 pound fresh pork belly (optional)*
2 dried sweet red peppers
salt to taste
1 tablespoon fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon mint, finely chopped
*Generally speaking, in pre World War II Southern Italy "paste e fagioli" was a meatless dish, but the well-to-do did add "ciccicoli," bite-sized chunks of fresh pork belly, to enhance the flavor of the dish.Fresh pork belly is often sold as panchetta (sometimes spelled, "pancetta") in Italian butcher shops -- but please note that the pancehetta used in this dish is Not the cured panchetta that is readily available and offered rolled up and ready to eat; "ciccioli" are made with "fresh" panchetta -- this meat is generally only available in Italian butcher shops in the wintertime (Apparently few Italians ask for it in the summertime, so it is rarely up for sale), what is often sold as fresh pork belly in large North American supermarkets is not good enough as it is generally pre-salted and its taste is rather despicable.
To prepare the beans:
Step 1. Place dried white beans in water and soak overnight.
Step 2. Cook soaked beans for about half an hour to an hour (the amount of time depends on the size of the beans).
Step 3. Drain the beans, reserving the liquid.
Obviously, if one is using canned beans, steps 1 and 2, are not followed.
To make the sauce:
Step 1. Peel garlic. Chop or keep whole.
Step 2. Chop the fresh pork belly into bite-size pieces.
Step 3. Crush dried sweet red peppers into bite-size pieces.
Step 4. Heat olive oil in a deep pan.
Step 5. Add garlic, pork belly pieces and crushed sweet dried red peppers. Fry until most of the fat from the pork belly is rendered.
Step 6. Add the beans, with about 1/4 cup water used to cook the beans in (the amount of water depends on personal preference). Add salt.
To cook the pasta:
Step 7. Bring a large pot of water to boil. Add salt.
Step 11. Cook the pasta (about 8 minutes).
Step 12. Drain the pasta.
To prepare the pasta:
Step 13. Place the drained pasta in a large bowl. Add about 1/4 cup of the prepared sauce to the pasta. Mix well.
Step 14. Place the tossed pasta in individual dishes. Add extra sauce on top of each dish.
Step 15. Serve warm.
Personally I prefer "pasta e fagiole" with home-made tagliatelle rather than store-bought tubetti. The real good taste of this dish is in the pasta itself (rather than the embellishments), so if one doesn't start with home-made pasta, one might as well not do it. I suppose one can do the dish with store-bought tagliatelle, and that might work. Still, even though tubetti, were often used in pre World War II Italy (apparently they were not that expensive) they don't appeal to me. Home-made pasta has a special flavor that commercially dried pastas lack. Actually, home-made pastas are a bit sweet to the taste, and its this sweetness which is lost in the packaging. Possibly, home-made pastas and/or store-bought pastas, have as much nutritional value as candy, meaning they have little if any nutritional value, but then if one is looking for nutrients one should avoid pasta altogether, and get fat on beans instead. Photo: Mary Melfi.