When I was a child, I would hear my parents and grandparents talking about the Depression and stretching food for meals. One of the most popular dishes was Pasta Fagioli--pasta with beans. It was one of my dad's favorites. After I married, I forgot about that dish until it became a popular menu soup item on the Olive Garden's menu. My mother never wrote down her original recipe which was a can of this and a pinch of that. When I began writing my Caprice De Luca Home Staging Mysteries and developed a story line that includes her large Italian family--Caprice also loves to cook--I began to think about the recipes that my mother and grandmother made.
This is my updated version of Pasta Fagioli from DEADLY DECOR. It's a little tangy with a touch of sweetness and smoked goodness. I hope you enjoy it.
Fran’s Pasta Fagioli
(As published in DEADLY DECOR)
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Prep time: One hour
Bake time: 40 minutes
1 pound ground beef. I use 85% lean.
1/8 pound sliced prosciutto torn into bite-size pieces
1/2 cup chopped fennel. I chop the upper portion of the stalks around the “heart.” (The heart is a great crunchy snack!) You can substitute celery, but that will change the flavor of the casserole.
1/2 cup chopped onion
1 clove grated garlic
1 teaspoon salt
Dash of pepper
1 cup fire-roasted canned tomatoes
1 cup ketchup
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon mustard
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 tablespoon apple cider vinegar
2 cans of cannellini beans (white kidney beans; 15.5 ounce cans). I rinse and drain these.
1 cup of shredded, apple-smoked mozzarella cheese. Using my hand grater, I grate the cheese and set it in the refrigerator until the casserole has baked for 35 minutes.
1 1/2 cups fusillini or other mini pasta
5 quarts of water with 1 teaspoon of salt
Start water to boil. While waiting, chop the vegetables and measure out the other ingredients so they’re ready when you need them. When the water boils, add the fusillini or other mini pasta and boil for 8 minutes.
The pasta should be finished about when the beef is browned. Drain your pasta after it cooks, and let it stand until you are ready for it.
In a large frying pan, brown the ground beef until there is no pink.
To the browned ground beef, add the prosciutto and stir well. Add fennel, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper.
Stir and let simmer for about 2 minutes to mix the flavors. Stir in tomatoes. Add ketchup, brown sugar, mustard, lemon juice, and vinegar. Add drained beans.
Cover the ground-beef mixture and let it simmer for 5 minutes. Then pour the drained pasta into the mixture and stir.
Transfer all of it into a 3-quart casserole; cover and bake for 35 minutes. Remove from oven, sprinkle with the grated apple-smoked mozzarella, and insert into oven again, uncovered, for 5 minutes.
Remove and serve with crusty bread.
USA TODAY Bestselling Author Karen Rose Smith is an only child who delved into books at an early age. She learned about kindred spirits from Anne of Green Gables, solved mysteries with Nancy Drew and wished she could have been the rider on The Black Stallion. Yet even though she escaped often into story worlds, she had many aunts, uncles and cousins around her on weekends. Her sense of family and relationships began there. Maybe that's why families are a strong theme in her novels, whether mysteries or romances. Her 91st novel will be released in 2016.
Readers often ask her about her pastimes. She has herb, flowers and vegetable gardens that help her relax. In the winter, she cooks rather than gardens. And year round she spends most of her time with her husband, as well as her four rescued cats who are her constant companions. They chase rainbows from sun catchers, reminding her life isn't all about work, awards and bestseller lists. Everyone needs that rainbow to chase.
Karen looks forward to interacting with readers. They can find her at the links below.