Pasta e Fagioli. It means Pasta with Beans in Italian. It’s a meatless, peasant dish that I grew up eating as a kid. It’s made in a lot of different ways… sometimes in a thick tomato sauce, sometimes just tomato paste, and sometimes no tomato at all. The herbs can be oregano and basil, or rosemary and sage… it can be thick like a stew or thin like a soup. I grew up eating the thick, tomato version flavored with rosemary and sage using penne and canned beans. And it was delicious. And I make that a lot now for my family, but I wanted to do something different this time…
I was driving home from the gym the other morning, planning our dinner for the night. And it had been awhile since I’d been to the store, so I knew we would be having a pantry-based meal. I also had the day off with my son and was in the mood to cook all day and create something homey. So my brain went directly to Pasta e Fagioli…something I can literally make without opening the fridge if I was really desperate. I started thinking what pasta I had on hand to use, and then thought, hmm… I wonder what it would be like if I used gnocchi instead.
And here we are. I made this whole meal by scratch, and it took the better part of a day… because I wanted it to. I could have rushed, I could have used canned beans or packaged gnocchi, but I wanted a project with my boy.
And I got one.
g n o c c h i
makes 68…approximately 😉
Bake or microwave* 3 lbs of russet (baking) potatoes. This, for me, was 9 small-medium sized potatoes (I buy mine in the bags so they’re smaller than if you were to buy them bulk)
Allow them to cool enough to handle (or cook the potatoes ahead of time, cool completely and refrigerate for later), then peel them.
Push each naked potato through a ricer or food mill into a large bowl.
1/2-1 cup of flour (Start with the 1/2 cup and add more as needed. If you want to make gnocchi gluten free- I recommend using rice flour and NOT potato flour. The potato flour will cause these to mush up in the soup. Trust me, I tried.)
2 large eggs
1 (packed) cup of Parmigiano Reggiano. The real stuff (this is a 4.5 ounce wedge including the rind. Save the rind for the soup later!)
a good amount of freshly grated nutmeg
Now, here’s where I go rogue. I love tradition but I do NOT love taking steps that I feel unnecessary. If I can find a short cut that doesn’t compromise the end result of something, then I take it. I do NOT separate the gnocchi dough into pieces and roll the pieces into logs and slice the logs into small pieces and shape the pieces into dumplings and indent them with a fork.
Here’s what I do instead…
I just pinch off pieces in the size I want, shape them in my hands and fingers, and run the back of a fork over them to create the ridges.
Look at my focused little helper. My 7 year old son and I sat and rolled gnocchi, side by side, for an entire hour. It was incredible I highly recommend it.
From here you can wrap the gnocchi on a platter and refrigerate until you’re ready to cook them, or cook them right away. Traditionally you’re boiling gnocchi in salted water, just like pasta, until they float, and then draining them to be used in whatever dish you plan on. For this soup, I dropped them into the simmering soup when it was finished, right before serving.
And now onto the soup…
GNOCCHI E FAGIOLI
(What I perhaps love the most about this picture is that I know my son rolled those gnocchi in that bowl up there. His little hands shaped each and every one of those beautifully craggy dumplings. And they’re perfect.)
Get your beans started first.
In a large stockpot, add…
1 pound white beans (I like Great Northern beans)
3 bay leaves
the ends of the onion you’re using to chop for the soup (yes you can use a new onion, or none at all, but it does lend great flavor to the beans and I like using all of everything if I can)
Cover with water- twice as much water as beans.
Bring to a boil. Boil, vigorously for 3 minutes. Cover. Turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 2 hours.
*Optional but recommended extra step if you have the time- In another large stockpot, bring to a simmer 2 quarts chicken stock** (8 cups)– either homemade or good quality storebought and add in your reserved parmesan cheese rind. Allow this to simmer, covered, for as long as you’re preparing the meal for extra flavor in your soup. If you don’t take this step, you’ll simply add the rind in when you add the stock to begin your soup later on.
While your beans are cooking, start your soup by sautéing the following veggies in a large skillet
(or large stockpot if you didn’t take the extra step above) on medium-high heat with a little olive oil…
3 large carrots, diced
1 zucchini, diced
1 large onion, diced
Season well with kosher salt
Once your veggies start to soften a bit, add in…
5 cloves of garlic, minced
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf
Stir and once you smell the herbs and garlic, deglaze the pan with about 1/2 cup dry, white wine. Stir to scrape up any bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. Simmer for a minute or so.
If you’re making this in the stockpot now and haven’t infused your chicken stock with parmesan, then now add in 2 quarts of chicken stock. OR add this white wine/veggie mix to your stock pot with the hot stock and cheese rind.
Add in your beans. They should be al dente right now and will continue to cook in the soup pot.
Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer for at least an hour or as long as it takes for the beans to soften to your liking and the soup to taste incredible.
When you’re ready to serve, drop in your gnocchi, one by one…
Only drop as many gnocchi as you know you’ll be needing at this moment, do not store leftovers with gnocchi in the soup- they will mush and swell.
Serve warm and garnish with chopped parsley.
Store any unused gnocchi in a large freezer bag, not touching one another.
(*note- I do not recommend boiling your potatoes for gnocchi. If you do, they soak up too much flour and become too gummy and dense. If you bake them, less flour is needed and they remain light and fluffy and perfect.)
(**other note- You can make this vegetarian and use the bean broth (cooking liquid) instead of the chicken broth and omit the cheese rind. However, using the bean broth will cause some tummy noise. But I assume if you’re vegetarian, you’re already privy to tummy noise.)
Stay tuned for what I did with the remaining half of my gnocchi… It’s pretty killer.
Thanks for reading, y’all. Have a good one! XOXO