Zuppa di Pasta e Fagioli

Zuppa di Pasta e Fagioli

Shared by Chris Black

My family and I made another new dish with our delicious buffalo from Wild Idea. This time we used the Wild Idea Italian Sausage to make a play on Zuppa di Pasta e Fagioli.

Ingredients & Preparations:

I started with 8 oz of dried cannellini beans. Frequently I'd soak them overnight, but on this particular day I didn't have a chance to do so. Instead I cooked them directly in a homemade chicken stock. I brought a full quart of chicken stock to a boil, poured in the beans and turned the heat down to a medium simmer, then let that cook partially covered for 2 hours. I'd stir occasionally and add water as needed to keep the beans covered by ~1/2" of liquid. At the end of 2 hours the beans were nearly completely cooked and tender without falling apart. From here I supplemented the broth with two full calabrian chilies, two bay leaves, about a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg, a generous pinch of salt, and three full, medium chopped garlic scapes. I turned all of this down to a very low simmer and left covered while I prepared the other ingredients.

Next I filled a large pot to ~2/3 capacity with generously salted water and brought it to a vigorous boil. I cooked one full pound of dried farfalle pasta in an excess of this generously salted water according to the package instructions, but for one full minute less than the recommended minimum cook time.

While the pasta was cooking I heated olive oil in a cast iron pan until very hot. Since the buffalo is so lean I like to sear it very fast to develop flavor without drying out the meat. Once the cast Iron was very hot I tossed in three full, medium diced cremini mushrooms and stirred briefly.  As quickly as possible I introduced small (~1-1.5 tsp sized) pinches of the italian sausage until the whole package was in and rapidly browning. After less than a minute I mixed the whole thing to allow other sides of the sausage and mushrooms to brown in the still very hot pan. Before beginning the browning I'd cut a large fistful of asparagus spears into ~2" portions and I blanched them in the boiling pasta water for about 20 seconds before introducing them into the hot pan OFF THE FIRE with the browned mushrooms and sausage. Be very careful here to shake nearly all of the water off the asparagus and to remove the pan from the fire (I use a gas stove) or a dangerous conflagration may ensue! By blanching the asparagus in the salted water and bringing some of it along you get a nice deglazing of the pan, plus really nicely cooked asparagus, but this step can be a little dicey if not done properly. The pan can be returned to medium flame after the asparagus is in, then mix everything briefly to release the fond and mingle all the ingredients and flavors together.

From here everything is cooked and it's just a matter of combination. I drained the pasta, holding back about a cup of the cooking liquid. I added the pasta into the simmering beans and mixed everything together to finish the last minute or so of pasta cooking time. I then added in the sausage and veg making sure to transfer as much of the pan sauce as possible. Stir all three components together and add in the retained pasta water to loosen the sauce as desired (I like sort of a full bodied soup or very loose sauce viscosity). If you need more than the cup of retained pasta water to get the consistency you want add unsalted water otherwise the whole dish will be over seasoned. Finish the whole dish by adding in a pretty generous pat of butter and mixing it all together vigorously to coat everything evenly and introduce a silky, butter mouthfeel.

Grated parmesan and/or nutmeg can be added to taste and there are probably a million ways to substitute or enrich the recipe with different veggies, tomatoes, herbs, cheeses, etc, but this worked really well for us. If scapres are out of season or unavailable I'd just sub fresh garlic or maybe shallots. I'm sure canned beans, canned broth, etc could be used as well with little overall change to the results, but some flavor/seasoning tweaks are likely needed.

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