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European, Italian
Pasta E Fagioli Recipe-107

Photo by: Joseph De Leo
Comments: 2


This is that life-saving, thick, pasta-and-bean meal of a soup as sung about by Dean Martin in “That’s Amore.” It’s just the thing you want to eat when the rain’s battering against the windowpanes and just what you need to cook to make you feel that you’re safe and warm, happy and occupied within.

I have to say, it’s the first time I’ve included a knee-high hosiery sock among any list of ingredients. By all means bundle the rosemary and onion into cheesecloth if it makes you feel more satisfactorily homespun, but I am just not one of those efficiently traditional domestic types that keeps cheesecloths and muslins on hand.

Yield: Serves 8


  • 3 cups (about 18 ounces) dried cranberry beans
  • 5 cloves of garlic, whole, plus 1, Microplaned or grated
  • 1 knee-high hosiery sock
  • 2 leafy sprigs of rosemary
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • Sprig of rosemary, about 2 inches, needles finely chopped
  • 7 ounces ditalini, tubetti or other small pasta tubes
  • Extra virgin olive oil, to serve


Put the cranberry beans in a large bowl, cover with cold water and let the beans soak overnight or for at least 6 hours.

Drain the beans and tip them into a large saucepan. Using the flat side of a large knife, press down on the whole garlic cloves so that their papery skins tear and begin to come away. Peel them and chuck the bruised cloves on top of the beans. Now take your knee-high and in it pop the sprigs of rosemary and cut-up onion. This will stop the needles (which turn bitter on boiling) from infiltrating the soup (very irritating between the teeth, too) but allow their resiny fragrance to seep through. I also find it better not to have slimy onion skins all over the place later. Cover everything generously with cold water, clamp on a lid and bring to the boil. Once it’s started boiling, turn the heat down and simmer for an hour. Check the beans to see how cooked they are and, only when they’re tender, add salt to taste.

Chuck out the corpsed knee-high and its contents. Remove a mugful of beans—or more if you want a very thick soup—and tip into a blender (my preference) or processor, along with a tablespoonful of tomato concentrate and 1¼ cups of the bean-cooking liquid and liquidize.

Now, add the 3 tablespoons of oil to a small saucepan and grate (I always use my fine Microplane for this) or squeeze in the sixth clove of garlic. Cook over a low to medium heat until soft but not colored and then stir in the finely chopped rosemary. Cook for another scant minute, add the liquidized soup and cook for a minute or so, then tip into the large pan of beans. Bring back to the boil and add the ditalini, cooking them according to package instructions. Drizzle with extra-virgin olive oil and serve.

© 2002 Nigella Lawson

Nutritional Information

Nutrients per serving (% daily value)

Nutritional information includes 1/8 teaspoon of added salt per serving, but does not include extra virgin olive oil to serve.

393kcal (20%)
300mg (12%)
6g (10%)
1g (5%)
0mg (0%)
2mcg RAE (0%)
2mg (4%)
107mg (11%)
5mg (26%)

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  • clouburns

    05.25.12 Flag comment

    Boiling a knee-high in your food -- just so you can avoid thinking of yourself as "domestic" -- is insane. Please don't ingest those chemicals and dyes!

  • dc

    10.13.09 Flag comment

    Lovely recipe - but I CANNOT imagine that a nylon or otherwise poly-something sock boiling in the pot would be healthy. what is wrong with cheesecloth or sachets for herbs?


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