Pasta e fagioli
100g cardoon or artichokes
200g pancetta or guanciale
100g parmesan rind
1 whole red chilli
1 sprig of rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
Small bunch fresh oregano, or tbsp dried
250g dry fagioli del purgatorio (or 500g precooked queen butter beans)
If want to make this soup like your imaginary nonna would, start two days before you want to cook the dish by soaking the beans in copious amount of tap water. Feel free to change it every 12 hours or so.
Put on the stove, on a high heat, and bring to the boil. Then turn right down and let it cook for an hour, add your diced parmesan rind and let it go for another hour or until the beans are soft and fully rehydrated.
(Alternatively, just buy some delicious queen butter beans from Boldbean to avoid having to prep days in advance.)
If using the cooked beans, then begin here, bringing those beans to heat in a pot with the parmesan rind.
Then, prepare a soffritto: dice cardoon, carrot, fennel, pancetta and sweat down on medium heat in what looks like a reasonable amount of olive oil, add a pinch of salt, split a red chilli and half add to the pan. Cook until soft and browned, set aside until the beans are cooked.
Once the beans are cooked (or warmed if using precooked) take a 1/4 or so of the beans and blitz them up with enough of the cooking liquid to get a thick soupy consistency.
Combine the beans, the bean pure, and soffritto all in the bean pan, cover with water or chicken stock (if feeling fancy and want a richer end result) – bring to the boil and add your pasta straight into the beans. I’ve used tubetti rigati from Rummo but any sort of “pasta per zuppe”, like conchiglie, ditali ,or gnocchetti, will work well.
Cook the pasta following the cooking time, though you might need to top up the water if the liquid in the pan starts drying out.
Serve in pre-heated soup bowls, finish with a generous drizzle of your ‘special occasions olive oil’ that you hide from your partner or flatmate.
If you have a little bit of self control, lucky you – try to save some for tomorrow, since this dish is one of those dishes that drastically improves reheated a day or so after it was first cooked.
Buon appetito e ciao.
All photography by Michaël Protin, except for soffritto, which is by the author.