13 March, 2007

Pasta e fagioli

This classic Italian pasta dish is a good one for the pressure cooker, and substantial enough to serve as a balanced one-pot meal.

Tip: if you want to make a large quantity and freeze/reheat some, extract the part you are going to keep before you add the pasta. If you don’t, it will soak up too much liquid and go all stodgy.

500 ml haricot beans
3 tbs olive oil
2 stalks celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
100 g pancetta or prosciutto, chopped (if you can’t manage either of these, smoked bacon will do)
1 clove garlic, chopped
herbs (bay leaf, thyme, rosemary …)
1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 litre stock
500 ml pasta shapes (bows, penne …)
salt and pepper
grated parmesan

Soak the beans overnight. If you have a pressure cooker you can use the quick method: put the beans in the cooker, cover with at least 3 times their volume of water, bring up to pressure and cook for one minute. Let the pressure fall naturally, drain the beans, and they are ready to use.

Heat the olive oil in the pressure cooker and add the chopped vegetables, garlic, and prosciutto. Saute gently; this soffrito is the prelude to many Italian dishes. Then add beans, tomatoes, herbs, chilli, and stock. Bring up to pressure and cook for 15 minutes. Let the pressure drop naturally and test a bean; if they are still hard they will need a few minutes more.

Add the pasta and cook for about 10 minutes, till al dente. Season to taste. Serve in soup bowls, garnished with grated parmesan and a drizzle of olive oil.

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