Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Pasta Fagioli: Hunger Challenge Recipe

Pasta Fagioli

Hunger ChallengeNo question, I learned what frugal cooking was all about in Italy the land of "la cucina povera." Soups and salads made from stale bread, beans, pasta with nothing but olive oil, garlic and parmesan cheese and the most microscopic portions of meat were all part of my Tuscan diet. But I ate extremely well. I also learned many ways to cook beans. They don't call the Florentines "mangiafagioli" or bean eaters, for nothing. Could this dish be made with heirloom beans from Rancho Gordo and bacon from the Fatted Calf? Absolutely and it would still be a very cheap meal, though not quite $1 per person cheap.

Pasta Fagioli
$1.98 for 2 healthy servings

Ingredients

1 cup pinto beans, 50¢
2 slices bacon 30¢
1/2 onion 17¢
2 cloves garlic 5¢
1 cup macaroni, 11¢
1 bouillon cube 14¢
7 ounces canned diced tomatoes, 50¢
1 Tablespoon grated parmesan cheese 21¢

Instructions

Soak the beans in 3 cups of water in a saucepan overnight (or boil for 2 minutes, cover then allow to soak for one hour). Drain the water then add 3 more cups of fresh water. Bring water to a boil then lower heat simmer beans, covered, for 1 1/2 hours or until almost tender and set aside. Chop the bacon, onions and finely mince the garlic. In a large saucepan cook the bacon over medium heat until almost crisp. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes or until golden. Add the garlic, tomatoes and bouillon. Stir to combine, add the beans, their liquid, adding more water if necessary, and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the macaroni and cook until pasta is done, about 10-15 minutes. Taste and add salt to your taste. Ladle into bowls and top with parmesan cheese.

Rude awakening:

* I had to be very stingy with the parmesan cheese to stay within the budget

* This soup is simple, but can be made richer with additions like celery, carrots, and herbs such as rosemary but not for $1 per serving

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