(Click on the picture to navigate to the original recipe. I made some modifications and made a larger batch to have leftovers...and my modifications rocked.)
Pasta Fagiola Soup
-2 cups dried or 2 15-ounce cans white beans (I used great northern. Cannellini would also be great.)
-1 pound ground sausage (I used spicy italian)
-1 medium onion, diced
-2 carrots, diced
-1 or 2 celery stalks, diced
-1 Tbsp tomato paste
-1/4 cup olive oil
-4 garlic cloves, minced
-1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes
-7 cans broth (I used 6 chicken and 1 beef. Always use low sodium if possible. It gives you much more freedom as far as seasoning goes.)
-1 tsp dried thyme (if your sausage isn't seasoned, add 2 tsp instead of 1)
-2 bay leaves
-Salt and Pepper
-2 cups ditalini or any small pasta (shell, elbow, whatever)
-grated Parmesan cheese
1. If you're using dried beans, soak them overnight.
2. In a large pot over medium heat, brown the sausage. You want to try to render out some fat so don't try to cook it too fast. When it's brown, take out the sausage with a slotted spoon and put it in a bowl to set aside. Pour off any fat in the pan, but don't wipe it out. The crusty brown stuff at the bottom is called FLAVOR.
3. Add the olive oil to the pan and heat it up for a few seconds until it glistens. Then add the carrots, onions, and celery. Saute them for about 5 minutes until they start to soften. Start scraping the stuff up off of the bottom of the pot.
4. While these things are cooking, rinse off your beans (whether you're using canned or soaking dried beans.)
5. Add the garlic to the pot and stir it constantly. Only cook this for about 1 minute. If you go much longer the garlic will burn and taste gross.
6. At the end of one minute add the tomatoes, broth, thyme, bay leaves, and some salt and pepper. (Start with about a half tsp of salt and however much pepper you'd like. Freshly ground is always best.)
7. After you stir it up and make sure everything is in there, dump in your beans and the cooked sausage. (DO NOT PUT THE PASTA IN YET.)
8. If you're using canned beans, simmer the soup on low, covered with the lid (or you won't have much soup left at the end) for one hour.
9. If you're using dried beans, simmer the beans covered, but the cooking time will vary from about 1 hour to up to 4 hours. My beans were a little old and that mixed with the high altitude had me at the 4 hour mark. This stage is done when the beans are soft and delicious but not falling apart.
10. After the beans are done, add your pasta and simmer the soup uncovered for about 10 or 12 minutes (however long it takes to cook your pasta to al dente.) If when you add the pasta you don't think you have enough liquid, add more broth or water. Just be sure to taste and adjust your seasoning as you go. At this point you can also add greens if you want. (spinach, chard, kale, etc.)
11. When the pasta is done, serve yourself some soup and grate some cheese on the top!
TIPS FOR FREEZING: This soup is GREAT for freezing and heating up later. BEFORE you add the pasta, cool the soup down slightly and freeze however much you'd like. When it comes time to eat it, put it in a pot with a bit of water and slowly heat it up. When it's mostly melted/thawed, add the pasta and simmer until the pasta is done.