Our Pasta Fazoo

By Pamela Capriotti Martin

In my husband’s Italian/Irish household there were very specific dinners for every night of the week with some variations. Sunday was always a roast and his mother would make a sauce for the week ahead, which may have been used on a carne pizzaiola, or just pasta. Other nights there would be Nana potatoes and pork chops, minced beef and onions with a Bisto gravy served over mashed potatoes with a side of turnip or peas, and on Fridays, if there was money – fish and chips. If money was tighter than usual it would be chips and eggs or chips and beans. If the Sunday roast was a ham then the bone would be available for a nice pasta e fagioli later in the week. Like many households in the 1950’s in Canada and the U.S, this was a family. on a tight budget. Beans and pasta made for a great week night dinner and meat was meant to be stretched to feed a family of five.

Most of my children are fans of the soup, although M2 was never enamored as a child. M3 feels quite proprietary about her soup. She would order it in every Italian restaurant we frequented and then rate it. One chef took her to the restaurant kitchen and showed her how he made his version. She didn’t like the kidney beans. She was six. I’m pretty sure she told him he was ruining the soup. Another, Chef Frank would see the girls walking in Yorkville and would make it only for them since it wasn’t even on his upscale Italian menu. It’s Italian comfort food.

The dish has simple inexpensive ingredients and began as a peasant dish. John’s mother was from Naples and so while the word for beans is ‘fagioli’ in standard Italian, it’s ‘fasule’ in Neopolitan. So in this house, this simple family favorite, is affectionately known as “fazoo.”

I was introduced to my mother-in-law Giulia’s version of the soup when we traveled to John’s parents every Saturday for lunch. While I felt it was okay – I thought it lacked something. It became a discussion for us as to how we could give the soup more depth of flavor.

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John’s mother always used only water in hers and when she taught me to make it was specific that I was to use only four tomatoes from the can. The water in the soup was changed to chicken stock and I cut mine with water in about a 60/40 ratio, and John uses only chicken stock. If you don’t have that handy ham bone, we use pancetta. I find bacon too salty and don’t like the smoky flavor here, but would use it in a pinch and pull the salt back and use low-sodium chicken stock. Vegetarian M3 won’t use chicken stock or a meat product so substitutes vegetable stock.

This is one of those recipes that depends on who is making it and what you have in your pantry and fridge. I’m certain every Italian household has their own version and certainly John and I even have our own way of making this flavorful and filling soup. Little hands can pick basil leaves or grate cheese to make this a family event. This is my recipe. So, this is a starting point and is definitely open to change with the person who stirs the pot – of soup.

1 T extra virgin olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
3 ounces pancetta (or bacon)
1 medium onion, chopped fine
4 medium cloves of garlic, minced
1 t dried basil
1 28 ounce can San Marzano tomatoes (diced works well)
1 Parmesan cheese rind
2 cans (15 ounce each) Cannellini beans (drained and rinsed)
4 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
8 ounces small pasta (ditalini, tubetini, conchigliette)
¼ cup fresh parsley chopped
Black pepper, salt
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1. Heat oil in large Dutch oven over medium-high heat until shimmering but not smoking, about 2 minutes. Add pancetta and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to brown, 3 to 5 minutes.
2. Add onion; cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic, basil (not fresh), stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 1 minute. 3. Add tomatoes, scraping up any browned bits from bottom of pan.
4. Add cheese rind and beans; bring to boil, then reduce heat to low and simmer to blend flavors, 10 minutes.
5. Add chicken broth, 2 cups water, and 1 teaspoon salt; increase heat to high and bring to boil.

6. Cook pasta separately and until tender, about 10 minutes. If you keep the pasta separate and put it in the bowl under the soup, then you can actually reheat the soup base the next day and just boil a new batch of pasta. If you add it to the soup, the pasta becomes flabby and honestly – ruins it.

7. Discard cheese rind. Off heat, stir in 3 tablespoons parsley; adjust seasoning with salt and pepper. Ladle soup into individual bowls over pasta portion; drizzle each serving with olive oil and sprinkle with a portion of remaining parsley. Serve immediately, passing grated Parmesan separately.

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family sunday soup, sunday soup, beef soup, beef and vegetable soup

FTW Kitchen: Family Sunday Soup

By Pamela Capriotti Martin

I grew up in a family without many food traditions. How could that be for a girl with an Italian last name? My mother was Norwegian, and while my grandmother was a marvelous cook, I don’t think my mother ever really cared to cook. Or bake. She loved the convenience foods that came to be in the 50’s and 60’s and she worked full-time from the time I was 4. Dinner was never a priority although it should be noted, we definitely ate dinner every night.

When I was a senior in high school, my mother broke her leg and was unable to walk without crutches for months as it required surgery. I took over the cooking. Totally. And the shopping. I had a cookbook and taught myself to cook before cooking shows existed. I worked my way through the book to the delight (lasagna) and annoyance (eggplant parmesan) of my brothers and father.

Onions

When I married my Italian/Irish husband – he loved cooking. So we cooked. And created. And Sunday has always been my day to cook. Pot roasts, roasted chicken, buttermilk pound cake, apple pie, and the family favorite – Sunday Soup. Because Sunday is about family. It’s about comforting food. And it’s about the joy of fresh ingredients melding together to create a family tradition of love.

The recipe for Sunday Soup, so named by my girls, originated in a cookbook I bought from the Cookbook Store in Toronto in 1986. Today, we can find recipes on the internet in moments, but not so in the 80’s. This soup and so many other family recipe traditions we have built as a family is about my daughters – who all are wonderful cooks – and the memories we created as we cooked together. Some days we learned fractions by measuring. Some days we created disasters that looked better in our minds than it did on a plate or in a bowl. And some days we logged time just simply being together creating, experimenting, and eating the spoils.

It should be noted that this is a full meal soup accompanied by a crusty bread, a little cheese, and possibly, just possibly a homemade apple pie – hence the apples in the picture.

This is our family’s: Sunday Soup (adapted from Soups and Stews by California Culinary Academy)

Beef-soup-ingredients

2 T Olive Oil
2 1/2 – 3 lb beef short ribs (bone in)
2 medium onions (I like Vidalia but a white or yellow onion works as well)
2 stalks celery, thinly sliced
3 cloves garlic (grated)
1 red pepper seeded and chopped
1 – 2 t chili powder (this is the ingredient that makes this soup sing)
1 large can/box chopped tomatoes
2 large carrots, thinly sliced
4-6 small red potatoes quartered (scrubbed but not peeled)
1 bay leaf
2 t salt
1/2 t pepper
1/2 t dried marjoram
8 cups chicken stock (or water but the stock gives it greater depth)
1 cup small pasta
1/2 cup chopped parsley

  1. Salt and pepper short ribs. In a 6 – 8 quart Dutch oven over medium heat, add olive oil and brown short ribs well on all sides. Add onion, celery, garlic, and bell pepper around ribs, stirring occasionally until vegetables are limp. Sprinkle with chili powder.
  2. Add tomatoes and liquid, half the carrots, bay leaf, salt, pepper, marjoram and chicken stock. Bring to a boil and cover. Reduce the heat, and simmer until meat is tender (3 – 4 hours.)
  3. Remove and discard bay leaf. Remove short ribs; when cool, remove meat from bones. Cut meat into bite size pieces, return to soup discarding fat and bones. Soup can be made to this point, when at room temperature, place in fridge overnight.
  4. At this point, I add the remaining carrot and potatoes and bring it to a boil, reduce heat until new vegetables are tender.
  5. While soup is finishing, boil salted water, add pasta. When pasta is cooked al dente, drain, don’t rinse. Place ladle of pasta in bottom of soup bowl.
  6. Taste soup, adjust salt if needed, add parsley and serve over pasta.

NB: This is a forgiving soup in terms of adding vegetables – more, less, whatever you like or have on hand. I often add turnip or rutabaga and definitely peas are generally put in at the end to give it more color.