Pasta e Fagioli is a dish I keep revisiting trying to play around with methods for it so I can keep making it new to me. Here, the classic soup turns into a baked pasta dish. Loosen your belts and open wide. Have your blankies ready for a family nap.
- 1 pound penne rigate or whole-wheat penne
- 1/4 pound pancetta, 3 to 4 slices thick cut like bacon
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 ribs celery from the heart with leafy tops, chopped
- 1 carrot, peeled and grated
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 2 to 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
- 3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
- 1 fresh bay leaf
- Freshly ground black pepper
- 1 (15-ounce) can small white beans "Roman" beans, such as Goya brand or, cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
- 1/2 cup dry white wine
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
- 2 cups milk
- Nutmeg, to taste
- 1 1/2 cups grated Romano
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, cook pasta to just shy of al dente.
Chop pancetta into 1/4-inch dice.
While pasta cooks, heat a skillet with olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add pancetta, cook 2 to 3 minutes then add celery, carrot, onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf to the skillet, season with salt and pepper. Saute the vegetables until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Add beans and heat them through. Stir in 1/2 cup wine, simmer 30 seconds more and turn off heat. Remove bay leaf.
While vegetables cook, place a small sauce pot over medium heat, add butter, melt butter then whisk in flour and cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Season sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg and reduce 4 to 5 minutes, stir in half the grated cheese, turn off heat and adjust seasoning.
While sauce cooks, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat broiler to high.