With Bill Dixon
Grandpa Billett's Pasta Fazool
1 Pound Dried Great Northern Beans
3 Or 4 Smoked Pig's Knuckles (Ham Hocks)
5 Ounces Diced Pancetta
2 to 3 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 28 Ounce Can Diced Tomatoes With Liquid
1 Yellow Onion Diced
2-3 Carrots Peeled& Diced
2 Celery Stalks Diced
4 Garclic Cloves Minced
1 Generous Tablespoon Chicken Base
1 Fresh Rosemary Sprig
2 Fresh Thyme Sprigs or 1/2 Teaspoon Dried Thyme
2 Dried Bayleaves
2 Tablespoons Fresh Parsley Chopped
3 Fresh Spring Onions Diced
5 To 6 Cups Fresh Spinach Leaves
1/4 Cup Chiffonaded Fresh Basil Leaves
Parmigiano Reggiano Or Pecorino Romano Cheese Grated As Desired
Fresh Ground Black Pepper To Taste
6 To 8 Cups Water
1 Cup Elbow Macaroni Or Ditalini Pasta
Thoroughly rinse and clean beans in cold water, drain, and place in a
heavy wall pot such as Cast Iron or Ceramic Cast Iron Dutch Oven.
This recipe can also be made in a slow cooker or crockpot. Place the cleanly, rinsed beans in the pot and add enough water to rise two inches above the beans. Allow to soak overnight. You can also use a quick soak method by bringing the beans and water to a boil, allowing to boil for two to three minutes. Remove from heat, cover with lid, and allow to saok for two hours. After the beans have finished soaking, drain them in a collander.
Using the pot you soaked the beans in, add two or three tablespoons olive oil and over medium heat bring to a shimmer.
Add the diced Pancetta to the olive oil, and slightly brown.
Next add the diced yellow onion, minced garlic, diced carrots, and diced celery. Saute' just enough for the vegetables to start to become tender. Next add the smoked pig's knuckles, and the soaked beans. Mix the ingredients together.
Note: If you are using a slow cooker or crockpot, after you saute' the vegetables, and Pancetta, transfer them to the appliance, before you add the smoked pig's knuckles and the beans.
Add the diced tomatoes with liquid. Now add 6-8 cups water to fill the pot. Stir in the Chicken base. Cover with a lid and bring to boil.
After pot begins to boil, reduce heat to simmer, and add the Rosemary and Thyme sprigs, bay leaves, and parsley. If you are using the slow cooking appliance forgo the boiling step before adding the herbs.
Simmer for two hours if using the Dutch Oven/pot, stirring occasionaly, and adding water only if neccessary if the soup starts to become to thick.
Or, cook on "High" for four hours if using the slow cooker appliance.
After the smoked pig's knuckles become fall apart tender, remove them to a plate and allow to cool just a bit while you dice up your spring onions. Add the diced spring onions, and fresh spinach to the soup and stir in well. Slightly chop the spinach If you wish. Baby spinach will require no chopping at all.
Pull all of the available meat, and some of the fat from the pig's knuckles, cut into fairly small pieces and add back to the soup.
When you are ready to serve, boil salted water in a pot to cook the pasta. Add the pasta, 1 cup, more or less as desired, to the boiling water, and boil for approximately 8 minutes. You want a very firm Al dente for your pasta.
As you laddle up the soup into inividual serving bowls, add the desired amount of pasta. But don't over do it. I do not reccomend adding the cooked pasta to the pot. If you have leftover soup to which you have added the pasta, it will soak up the liquid, become mushy, and you will end up with "Pasta FaGlue"! Always cook up a little fresh Elbow Macaroni or Ditalini to go with warmed over Pasta Fazool.
After you have served up the soup and the pasta to the bowls, stir in a little of the chiffonaded fresh basil, and add grated Parmesan, or Romano and fresh craccked black pepper to taste.
To really ratchet up Grandpa Billet's Pasta Fazool, serve it with slices of fresh baked Pungo Prairie No Knead Artisan Bread.
Now That's Italian! Serves A Bunch!
Tip: If your dried beans come with a seasoning packet, you may want to add it for a little more robust "ham" flavor in addition to all of the above. If you do, add it right after you toss in the spinach and the meat from the smoked pigs knuckles.
Now listen to me. If you really want to knock it out of the park with this dish, brown up some ground beef, (I use lean, ground venison), and a litttle sweet Italian sausage, (cased, not ground, sliced and quartered), in olive oil and garlic and add that into the pot. I like to keep my ground burger a little on the "chunky side" when I brown it.