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BackstoryThis is an old family recipe; it came from my mom's side of the family - I can't be sure but I think it may have been served in my great grandfather's restaurant. There are as many versions of this recipe as there are Italian families - it's Italian comfort food. But unlike most, ours is not a soup; rather, it's more like a hearty pasta dish.
- 18 oz. (approx.) cannellini beans (see note)
- 1/2 lb. ditalini or macaroni pasta
- 1 small chopped onion
- 2 cloves garlic, smashed or minced
- 1-2 tbsp tomato sauce or tomato paste
- Set pot of water to boil. Once water has come to a boil, salt liberally, add pasta, stir once, then cover.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1-2 tbsp olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and sweat until translucent, about 5 to 7 minutes. Add garlic and heat through until fragrant, 30 seconds or so (don't let the garlic burn). Add the beans and the reserved liquid (if any) and stir to combine and heat through. Let the mixture thicken slightly. Turn heat to low.
- Drain pasta and, while hot, turn out into a large bowl. Add the bean mixture to pasta along with 1-2 tbsp of tomato sauce or tomato paste. Stir to combine. Serve immediately with kosher salt, cracked black pepper, and grated parmigiano.
- NOTE: We've always used canned beans, and I'm okay with that. No one wants to take the time to make beans, plus the canned version usually comes with a rich, thick liquid that works perfectly for this dish. It's seasoned and helps pull the "sauce" together. If you can't find cannellini beans, they may be labeled as white kidney beans, or you can use great northern beans.
- The tomato sauce is to add a hint of flavor and color, but this is a white dish, mostly. And again, it's not a soup - the reserved liquid from the beans and the sauce or puree are there to bind everything.
- Traditional kitchen lore says not to salt beans while cooking because they'll get tough and split. That's probably not a problem here, but I still like salting just before serving - it adds a great pop of flavor.