Friday, March 26, 2010

Pasta e Fagioli: Bacon really does make everything better

“It has a little kick to it,” Our waitress told me at Real Food Daily on Wednesday night.

I nodded, “a little kick” didn’t sound too scary, and the Kung Pao tempeh with pineapple rice, vegetables and cashews was the monthly special. According to the waitress, that meant it was the most popular entrée!

I like being popular.

And eating popular things.

“Okay, I’ll have that then,” I responded brightly, closing my menu with finality.

Four glasses of water and one glass of wine later, I hobbled back to my apartment like a wounded soldier. I had taken on the “Hunk of Burning Love” (the actual name of the menu item) and the hunk had won. My weak stomach ached for the rest of the night and most of yesterday – angry at me for treating it so savagely at the restaurant.

Apparently, I can’t handle spice.

As the day wound down yesterday, all I wanted to do was go home, assume the fetal position, and eat a big bowl of soup and bread to soothe my achy breaky belly. I remembered Cathy from Gastronomy Blog had raved about a Pasta e Fagioli soup earlier this year, so I printed the recipe off her site and headed to Whole Foods.

While I’m sure it would have been fine to make the hearty soup without the bacon that the recipe requests, as I meandered through the aisles, I could hear Cathy’s voice urging me toward the meat counter.

“Get the bacon, D. A little fat never hurt anyone.” She whispered with a wink.

I nodded, “a little fat” didn’t sound too scary, and bacon is the most popular foodstuff in America right now.

I like being popular.

And eating popular things.

After I’d picked up my zucchini, brown onion, can of diced tomatoes and Great Northern white beans, I requested one slice of bacon from the specialty cheese and meat counter. Even though the slicer and cheese specialist behind the counter were exchanging looks that made me feel like a crazy person, I held strong with my mission.

“Cathy wants me to eat the bacon,” I thought, “And I’m going to eat it, gosh darn it!”

The soup preparation was relatively easy as soups go, but my whole wheat orzo did take a while to cook, allowing plenty of time for the soup to thicken up and for the tomatoes to lose their tinny flavor.

The endless minutes spent eying the stove proved to be worth the wait. The resulting bowl of soup was packed with flavor and was exactly what I needed to settle my stomach last night. Even though the quantity could probably have fed two people, I demolished the entire pot – and every little tiny scrap of bacon.

Apparently, bacon really does make everything better – even an achy breaky stomach.

Pasta e Fagioli
Adapted from Gastronomy Blog/America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook
Serves 1-2

1 slice bacon, chopped
¼ brown onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, minced
1 zucchini, diced
½ cup kale, chopped
¼ teaspoon dried oregano
Red pepper flakes (I replaced with pepper because of my spice woes)
½ 14-ounce can diced tomatoes
1/3 cup canned Great Northern white beans, rinsed
1 3/4 cup chicken broth
¼ cup whole wheat orzo
1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley
1 cube Trader Joe’s frozen basil
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese

Cook the bacon in a medium pot over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes.

Stir in the onion, zucchini, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes (or pepper). Cook until the onion and zucchini are softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, beans, broth. Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes.

Stir in the pasta and cook until just slightly underdone. (It took nearly 20 minutes for my pasta to cook through.)

Add the kale, and when just wilted, remove the pot from the heat, stir in the parsley and basil cube, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve immediately. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.


Anna A. said...

Looks yummy! Hopefully your tummy is feeling better now. Tell those counter people there is no such thing as normal!

Alessandra said...

Reason number 635 on why you are my best friend: You ordered ONE piece of bacon at the meat counter.

Didi, you're a very special girl :)

Esi said...

One. Slice. Of. Bacon??? You are killing me!! Glad the soup helped with your stomach though.

Diana said...

Anna - Exactly! I don't want to know the person who would be described as "normal!"

Ali - I also undo the rubber bands on the asparagus so I can buy exactly how many I want.

Esi - Bacon buddies? ;)

Sippity Sup said...

Bacon does make everything better, But I also love spicy foods. So to me this was a win/win. GREG

Kung Food Panda said...

Looks great Diana! Bacon just add that fatty, awesome goodness any dish would need to enhance its flavors~

Diana said...

Greg - I think I need to work on my spice tolerance! At some point I want to be able to try Jitlada!

Danny - Hear hear! I think we might be seeing some bacon in my quinoa soon... ;)

Gastronomer said...

Just one little slice? I put in four when I made it last week ;-)

Diana said...

Cathy - Well I did cut down the recipe by over a fourth! So it was proportionally right for the amount. Even so, I'd be tempted to throw in another piece next time... the bacony bits definitely were the best! ;)

The Duo Dishes said...

Bacon will probably never get old. Nevahhhh. But super spicy food is too much! Love how the waitress downplayed the spice. Yikes!