Monday, May 13, 2013

Porky Pasta e Fagioli with Homemade Ham Broth

This is one of my most favorite soups; pasta e fagioli. It was traditionally made with just white beans and pasta at its humble beginnings. My version, however, has lots of meaty goodness in the form of pasture raised pork, ham and sausage to be exact! This makes for an incredibly hearty soup that is a great, one-pot meal any night of the week. Its super easy to whip up and you can use any combination of ingredients that you have on hand or that are your personal favorites. This recipe also uses a homemade ham broth, made from a leftover Easter ham bone and trimmings that I froze for a later use. What is more loving and delicious than a huge pot of homemade soup? Nothing in my book! My family devours this soup all week, sopping up the broth with local, brick oven Italian bread and we sometimes even fry and egg and put it over top for a pasta e fagioli breakfast...oh yes!!

There is a base recipe and sofrito (aromatic seasoning mixture) that I always follow when I make pasta e fagioli. No matter what other things I decide to change up in the soup the base is always the same. I always start with onion, garlic, carrot and some type of pasture raised pork, I call this my sofrito. The other ingredients that are always present in my pasta e fagioli or my base are white beans and pasta, of course that is what pasta e fagioli means in Italian after all. My version does not use tomatoes at all; I call it a "blonde" version because of the color. It comes out a beautifully golden and its just perfect if you ask me!

This recipe makes about 6 or 7 servings.


1/4 Cup good quality olive oil, for cooking
2 Links of pasture raised, hot, Italian sausage, casing removed and crumbled.
1 Pasture raised, smoked ham steak, or leftover ham from a spiral, smoked ham (2 cups), cubed.
2 Cans organic white beans, drained and rinsed, I used Divina white beans in vinaigrette* please see note on the bottom.
1/4 Cup white wine or white wine vinegar, to deglaze the pan.
2oz Your favorite small pasta, I used an organic, semolina spiral shaped noodle.
5 Organic carrots, peeled and diced
1 Large onion, peeled and diced
4 Cloves organic garlic, minced or grated.
4 to 6 Cups homemade ham broth, recipe follows, you can use chicken broth in place of this.
1 Tbsp dried, organic oregano
1 Tbsp dried, organic thyme
1 Tbsp dried, organic basil
2 Organic bay leaves, dried or fresh.
Sea salt & fresh ground pepper, to taste.
1 Parmesan rind, optional, I keep my parmesan rinds. I place them in a plastic baggie in the freezer and add them to broths or stews.


In a dutch oven or heavy bottom pan over medium high heat saute the sausage with a drizzle of the olive oil (not the whole 1/4 cup just enough to get the browning started, about 1 Tbsp). Brown on all sides, about 5 or 6 minutes and remove from pan, set aside.

Next brown the ham the same way with a bit of olive oil till browned on all sides. Remove and set aside.

Turn the heat down to medium and add in the remaining olive oil, onion, carrots and garlic. Season with salt and pepper and saute till they are soft, about 5 or 6 minutes. Deglaze the pan with white wine or white wine vinegar and cook till all liquid is gone, about 2 minutes. Add in all dried herbs and bay leaves. Add in the white beans and add the meats back into the pan. Give it a stir to combine.

Pour in enough broth to cover everything, I needed about 4 cups you may need more or less depending on the size of your pan or how "soupy" you like your soup. I like mine a little more like stew so I added just enough liquid to cover everything. Put the parmesan rind in, if you are using, it will melt in. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat cover and simmer  for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes add in the pasta and 2 more cups of warm ham broth. Cook long enough for the pasta to cook, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and taste for salt and pepper. Serve my favorite way: in large bowls with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese, sprigs of fresh oregano, snips of chives and some great crusty bread for sopping!

Ham Broth

In a very large stock pot place a ham bone with about 1lb of ham meat. I used the fatty parts, the trimmings as well as some of the meat right next to the bone for my pound, it doesn't have to be exact. My ham bone and meat was smoked. I also put in 3 bunches of scallions, greens and white parts, 2 whole onions cut in half, 1 head of garlic cut in half, 3 carrots cut in half, 1 Tbsp of black peppercorns and 1/4 cup of honey, unless your ham had a glaze then omit this. There is no need to trim or peel any of the vegetables it will all get strained at the end. Cover everything with enough water so that its all submerged.

Bring everything to a boil and then reduce heat and simmer for one and half hours, uncovered.

Strain everything through a fine mesh sieve over a large bowl, reserving the broth. Use immediately or place in the fridge, discard the fat from the top of the cooled broth.

This will make about 6 to 8 cups of broth.

*I used the Divina white beans in vinaigrette, they are sold in bulk and are in a very flavorful oil marinade. If you can find these or you chose to buy them online, by clicking the link, I used 2 cups of them with some of the oil. You can use more or less of the beans it won't ruin your soup, it all just depends on taste. I happen to love a very "beany" soup!

A soup like this is not the work of one man. It is the result of a constantly refined tradition. There are nearly a thousand years of history in this soup.
                -Willa Cather

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