Adapted from Fagioli by Judith Barrett
If you want to expedite the assembling of this bean-pasta amalgam, use 2 cups of canned beans that have been drained of their accompanying liquid. It’s a cheat. But, like all cheats, it has an irrefutable allure.
- If you’re not sure how old your beans are, soak them for about 8 hours, then drain them. If the beans are fairly young, you don’t need to soak them. Put the beans in a medium saucepan, along with the olive oil, tomatoes and their liquid, garlic, basil, celery, a couple tablespoons salt, and water to cover the beans by about an inch. Bring to a boil with the lid on, then remove the lid, and lower the heat so that the water barely simmers. Cook, uncovered, until the beans are very tender, about an hour. Test a few to be sure no chalkiness remains. Taste for salt, and adjust the seasoning.
- Meanwhile, heat a medium skillet over medium-low heat, and add the pancetta. Cook, stirring frequently, until the pancetta’s fat has rendered and the pancetta is brown and crisp, about 15 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes, cook for about 30 seconds, and scrape the pancetta and its fat into the beans. Don’t rinse the skillet. Cook the beans at a gentle simmer for an additional 5 minutes. Heat the same skillet you used for the pancetta over medium-low heat and, using a slotted spoon, transfer the beans, along with about half a cup of bean cooking liquid to the skillet.
- Bring a large pot of water to a boil over high heat. Season well with salt. The water should taste fairly salty. Add the pasta, stirring occasionally, and cook for 5 minutes. The pasta will be very underdone at this stage. Transfer the pasta directly to the skillet using tongs. It’s absolutely fine that pasta cooking water clings to the pasta as you transfer it. Turn the heat under the skillet to medium. Cook, tossing and stirring frequently with tongs, adding ¼ cup pasta cooking water each time the liquid in the skillet evaporates. You want the pasta to be firm to the bite but tender, which will take about 6 minutes and a few rounds of pasta-water additions. The result will be a thick mixture of bean and pasta. Add a glug of olive oil, stir well, and then shower with a bunch of Parmigiano-Reggiano and serve.
Scott Hocker is a writer, editor, recipe developer, cookbook author, and content and editorial consultant. He has worked in magazines, kitchens, newsletters, restaurants and a bunch of other environments he can’t remember right now. He has also been the editor in chief of both liquor.com and Tasting Table.