Pasta e Fagioli Soup

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I have yet another tomato based soup for you. They all begin to look alike, but each has its own characteristics. This soup will ward off vampires and warm your soul on a cold fall evening. I don’t know if the traditional pasta e fagioli soup included bacon, but bacon makes anything better. If you don’t normally consume bacon (WHAT?), you can buy it and divide into three or four sections, and freeze in plastic bags. I do this all the time. With the kids gone, leisurely Sunday brunches including one pound of bacon is just a mere memory. If you divide it, you can cook a few pieces for a weekend breakfast or use it in a recipe.  To make chopping bacon a little less messy, chop it while it’s slightly frozen. Really! I’ve cooked with store brand canellini beans so you don’t have to. I strongly suggest using a name brand, like Goya, when you cook.  I have found store brand canned beans can still be hard, even after cooking. When a recipe calls for a few ingredients, they should be the best you can get. I have had good luck with store brand diced tomatoes. My favorite part is the mini bowtie pasta. Adorable and delicious.  You can add more or less liquids. This is a great soup to bring for a work lunch. The pasta absorbs some liquid and, as most pasta dishes, tastes better the next day. Of course the garlic and work……oops.

 

4 slices (or more) or bacon, chopped rough

1 large onion

4-6 garlic cloves, minced

1 tablespoon minced fresh oregano or 1 tsp. dried

1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes

1  28 ounce can of diced tomatoes (I like petite diced tomatoes)

2  15.5 ounce cans of canellini beans, rinsed

4 cups chicken broth

1 cup of water

1 3/4 cups of dried small pasta like mini bowtie (perhaps a few more for extra luck)

1/4 cup mince parsley or 2 tbsp dried parsley

pepper to taste

1 cup of grated Parmesan cheese (freshly grated is best)

Cook the bacon in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until crisp. Don’t walk away. Bacon can burn, so stir the bacon, to keep eyes on it. Stir in the onion, garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes. I add a healthy pinch of salt to sautéing onions. Cook until the onion is softened. Stir in the tomatoes with their juice, beans, broth, water and 1 tsp. salt. Bring to a simmer and cook for about 15 minutes. If you have a Parmesan rind, you can absolutely add it to the simmering soup.

Stir in the pasta and cook until slightly underdone. Off the heat, stir in the parsley and season with salt and pepper to taste. I like to add the Parmesan now. The original recipe adds it the bowls. I like to put the lid on the pan and let the soup sit for about 20 minutes, with the heat off. It gives the soup time to have all the flavors meld together and the pasta to cook a little more.

Enjoy!

 

Helpful Hint: You should always have all your ingredients ready. This means, onions are chopped and placed in a bowl, garlic pressed and put in a bowl, pasta measured, Parmesan grated into a bowl, cans of tomatoes opened and beans rinsed, drained and placed in a bowl. Having your ingredients ready will make cooking less stressful. It’s easier to be successful when can focus on cooking when you don’t have to rush, and potentially misread your recipe. As the French say, mis en place!

 

 

 

Bean and Bacon Soup

Just when I was about the say that I was DONE with the Pioneer Woman, I found this delicious recipe. I don’t usually have time to soak beans overnight and then pre-cook them for a recipe. I used canned cannelloni beans for this recipe and they worked just fine. Another handy item to have in your cabinet is tomato paste in a tube. Many recipes call for a tablespoon of paste. Yes, you can buy a small can of tomato paste and then put the remainder in a container and freeze, never to be found or used again. It’s just another thing to do. I can hear your eyes rolling. Buy the tubes on sale, you will thank me. Just to remember to refrigerate the tube after opening. I recently found a container of chicken stock that He Who Will Not Be Named put in the cabinet instead of the fridge. I may need therapy. It wasn’t pretty.

2-15 ounce cans of cannelloni beans

4 cups of chicken stock (store bought works great)

1 lb. bacon cut into 1-inch pieces

1 onion, diced (or 2 if you love onions like me)

2 carrots, peeled and diced

2 stalks celery, diced

salt and pepper to taste

4 cloves garlic, minced

2 tablespoons tomato paste

2 whole Bay leaves

minced parsley, to taste

Open the cans of beans and rinse. I take one can of beans and mash them up. Use a fork and a potato masher. Just break them up. Don’t over think this!  This helps thicken the soup a little. Put all the beans aside, in a bowl.

Put the bacon in a stock pot and cook until crisp.You should take the bacon out of the pan and place it on a plate with a paper towel, to drain. You will be adding some of the bacon back in the soup, and will reserve some for a topping. You can use less bacon.

Drain some of the bacon fat out of the pan and add in the onions, carrots, and celery. Sprinkle about a teaspoon of salt on the vegetables and cook until softened. Remember to put the hot bacon fat in a heat resistant container, or else it will explode. It happened to, um, a “friend” of mine. Oops. If you need more oil, add some olive oil to the pan. Stir, stir, stir. Add the garlic and tomato paste. Let this cook for about a minute. Stir, stir, stir. Add the chicken stock, bay leaves,  2/3 of the bacon, and beans. Give it a good stir, and put the lid back on. Simmer the soup for about 45 minutes. If you want less liquid, after 45 minutes, you can remove the lid and let the soup simmer for about 15 minutes to reduce the liquid. Keep an eye on the soup. You don’t want too much liquid to evaporate and scorch the pan. Not good!

When ready to serve, taste and season if needed. Serve with the remaining bacon sprinkled on top with the parsley. Unless you eat bacon everyday, don’t worry about it! Enjoy the damn soup!

Here’s the original recipe from the Pioneer Woman. I’ve slightly altered the recipe. She’s got pictures, if you need them.

Note: You can use vegetable stock. But why? I am assuming turkey bacon would work. You are no fun!

Makin’ the Bacon Appetizer

 

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I love football for pretty much one reason….the SNACKS. What represents snacks better than BACON? Nothin’. This recipe is titled Holiday Bacon Appetizers by the Pioneer Woman. Why would you limit consumption of these for just the holidays? That’s just crazy.

You only need a couple of ingredients. The most important part of this recipe is how they are cooked: on a rack over a cookie sheet. You cook these at a low temperature so the fat drips off. If they’re not on the rack, you will be cooking them in bacon fat. Now I love bacon fat as much as the next guy, but if you want some crunch, you need to cook them up off the baking sheet.

Ingredients:

Keebler Club crackers (not the minis)

1 pound of thinly sliced bacon

grated parmesan cheese (please use the real stuff)

brown sugar (This is a wonderful option)

 

Preheat oven to 250 degrees

You will get different amounts of these appetizers depending on the bacon. First thing I do is take the bacon out of the package and cut it in half. You only need half a piece of bacon for each cracker.

I like to put my cheese or brown sugar in bowls. You are going to put about a teaspoon of each on a cracker. Sometimes, the teaspoon always comes in contact with the bacon. You don’t want to keep the unused cheese or sugar because it could be contaminated by the raw bacon.

Once you put the cheese or brown sugar on the cracker, wrap the bacon around it. I sometimes do half the crackers with cheese and half with the brown sugar.  Don’t pull too tightly or the cracker will break. You want to try to have the ends on the bottom of the cracker so it doesn’t curl when it bakes. Don’t stress too much. It took me several times to master this. If the bacon curls, is that really the worst thing to happen? Nope. It will still taste delicious.

Place the crackers on the rack over a baking sheet. I like to put a piece of parchment on the cookie sheet. It makes for easy clean up. They usually fit on one baking sheet.

Put these delicious nuggets in the oven and cook for about 2 hours. I suggest you set the timer for 1 hour and 45 minutes. Check them. You don’t want them to get too dark or burn.  Sample one to determine doneness. But that’s just me!

You can serve these right away, or let them cool, and place in a Ziploc bag then toss in the freezer for another day. I microwave them before serving. How easy is that? Your house will smell like Bacon Heaven!!!

Here’s Ree’s recipe!