“Don’t be a fool, eat pasta fazool,” my dad would croon along with the Dean Martin ditty, “That’s Amore.” When I make a version of this soup — a swan song to summer — I hum the tune and remember as a kid, standing barefoot on Dad’s shoes while he danced me around the kitchen.
This medley of vegetables, pasta and beans does not rely on a recipe because it’s a little different each time I make it. The only constant is our farmers market bounty of fresh vegetables — carrots, green beans, zucchini, kale, peppers, herbs — whatever I’ve got goes into the pot. Though tomatoes are still in their prime, I usually leave them out and serve them on the side, sliced and layered with fresh mozzarella, basil, a lick of oil and balsamic, piled high on bruschetta.
When making this simple, satisfying fresh soup, there are a few things to keep in mind. Choose small pastas (elbows, stars, orzo) or break bigger pasta into bits. Cook the pasta in the stock because its starch will help thicken the stock and give the soup body. Rough-cut the vegetables the same size as the pasta so they’ll cook evenly and be done around the same time. Add the vegetables about 5 minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, so the vegetables and the pasta do not overcook; then add the cooked beans last. Because the pasta, vegetables and beans are all roughly the same size, they will fit onto the spoon and deliver the whole bowl of flavor in each bite.
Use cooked or canned drained beans here; the lighter beans are best — white beans, cannellini, navy beans, garbanzo. They are milder than the earthy tasting black or kidney beans that can overwhelm. For the stock, the subtle flavor of chicken or vegetable stock works best.
Finally, because this is such a light, fresh soup, make as much as you need and enjoy it right away. The leftovers typically disappoint. You can turn this into a heartier dish by adding cooked chicken, shrimp or tofu. I like to top it off with shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese, to add more body and salt. This simple soup is the essence of summer in a bowl — quick, easy, flexible. Soup of the season we love, that’s amore.
End of Summer Pasta Fasulu
Serves 4 to 6.
Note: While some recipes suggest cooking the pasta before adding it to the soup, here the small shaped pasta add just enough starch to give the stock body. Be sure to wait until the pasta is nearly cooked before adding the vegetables so they retain a little texture. Add the cooked beans right before serving. From Beth Dooley.
• 1 tbsp. olive oil
• 1/2 c. chopped onions
• 1 garlic clove, crushed
• 1 tbsp. chopped fresh thyme
• 6 c. chicken or vegetable stock
• 1 bay leaf
• 1/2 c. small pasta (elbow, stars, orzo)
• 1 large carrot, diced
• 1/2 c. diced zucchini
• 1/2 c. diced green beans
• 1 small red pepper, seeded and diced
• 2 large kale leaves, diced
• 1/2 c. garbanzo or white beans, drained
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
• Pinch red pepper flakes, to taste
• 1/4 c. shredded Parmesan or Asiago cheese, or more to taste
Film a large soup pot with the oil, set over medium heat and add the onion, garlic and thyme. Sauté, stirring until the vegetables are soft, about 3 minutes. Stir in the stock and bay leaf and bring to a boil.
Add the pasta, reduce the heat to a slow boil and stir; cook until the pasta is just beginning to become tender, about 5 to 8 minutes. Stir in the carrot, zucchini, green beans, pepper and kale and cook until the vegetables are tender-crisp, about 6 to 8 minutes. Stir in the beans. Season with salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste.
Remove and discard the bay leaf, and serve garnished with the cheese.
Nutrition information per each of 6 servings:
Calories 165 Fat 6 g Sodium 235 mg Saturated fat 2 g
Carbohydrates 20 g Total sugars 3 g
Protein 10 g Cholesterol 3 mg Dietary fiber 3 g
Exchanges per serving: ½ starch, 1 carb, 1 lean protein, ½ fat.
Beth Dooley is the author of “In Winter’s Kitchen.” Find her at bethdooleyskitchen.com.