A few months ago, dear friends of ours, Ben & Tracy, invited us over to catch up and have some dinner. You know those friends you don’t see for months on end but when you get together it’s like no time at all has even passed and the conversation flows like warm maple syrup down a stack of hotcakes? Ben and Tracy are those friends for us. We’ve known one another since before we were married, the “boyfriends” working for the same company at the time. Some 19 years later, we find ourselves living in the same town, miles away from where we originally met, both hubbies working for different companies now, and having both added several children to the mix (I made this birthday cake for their second child’s 3rd birthday). On this particular evening, they had prepared a hearty soup, one that I’ve never made myself and possibly have only ever seen offered at Olive Garden (there aren’t any Italians in this red headed family’s heritage). This special soup recipe came by way of Ben’s grandfather, Arthur Bolan. It was so soul satisfying with its richly flavored broth, nuggets of sausage, soft cannellini beans, and tender pasta that on that chilly night I told Tracy I had to have that recipe. After sharing the history behind Pappa Art and his delicious soup, my friends sent me the recipe and agreed to let me share it with you. I’m sure you’ll love it as much as we did.
Being the recipe tinkerer that I am, I did add a few things, noted in the recipe as “optional”, to Pappa Art’s original, simply because they were in my pantry. No offense, Pappa Art! Your original is “da bomb”. I’m just a perpetual tinkerer of all recipes. Even my own tried and true ones. Drives my husband crazy.
Here are a few words from my friend, Tracy:
Sometimes recipes go to the grave and we say “I wish I had that recipe”. But isn’t it enough that every time we try to replicate the recipe we say, “My Pop made the best pasta fagioli”? Maybe there was a secret ingredient or maybe it was the years of love we tasted in the pot and it is our memories that make that recipe taste so good … either way, the best thing about recipes is they connect us with the past. They trigger heart-felt memories of our loved ones. I wonder what will my kids and grandkids remember me by?
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1 pound bulk sweet Italian sausage
- ½ pound bulk hot Italian sausage
- 4 ounces pancetta, diced (optional)
- 2 large carrots, peeled and chopped
- 3 ribs of celery, chopped
- 1 large white onion, peeled and chopped
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt
- ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 8 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
- 1 15 ounce can fire roasted diced tomato (optional)
- 10 cups chicken broth
- 2 bay leaves
- 2 sprigs of thyme
- 3 sprigs of rosemary
- 1 2-3" piece of rind from a chunk of Pecorino-romano or Parmesan cheese (optional)
- 1 15 ounce can cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 cup small pasta of your choice (I used DeLallo Gluten Free Orzo)
- ½ cup freshly grated pecorino-romano cheese, for serving
- Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the sausages and pancetta, if using, and sauté until fully cooked, breaking up sausages into small pieces with a wooden spoon.
- When the meat is fully cooked, transfer it to a bowl with a slotted spoon, leaving the drippings in the pan. Set the meat aside. Add the chopped carrots, celery, and onion to the drippings in the pan and sauté until softened. Season with the salt and pepper. Next add the minced garlic and sauté just until you smell the aroma of garlic.
- Add the can of diced tomato, 8 cups of the chicken broth, bay leaves, thyme & rosemary sprigs, and pecorino or parmesan rind. Return the meat to the pan, bring to a simmer and cook for an hour, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cannellini beans and cook for another hour at a slow simmer.
- If serving immediately, add the pasta and cook for the time specified on the pasta package. Remove the rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves, as well as the pecorino or parmesan rind. Serve with additional grated cheese. Enjoy.
- If preparing to consume the following day, add the pasta, remove from heat, and stir occasionally until soup is cool enough to refrigerate. Reheat soup to finish cooking the pasta. The pasta should be almost done by the time the soup reaches a simmer. Remove the sprigs of rosemary, thyme, and bay leaves, as well as the cheese rind and serve, passing additional grated cheese to sprinkle on top. Enjoy.
- If soup needs to be thinned because the pasta soaked up too much of the broth, add additional chicken broth or water to the pot, starting with a cup at a time, to thin.
What recipes do you have that bring back fond memories? Share your stories with us by commenting below.