If you live on the East Coast, I don’t need to tell you it’s cold. Talking about the weather is a useless endeavor. There is nothing we can do about it. But in our hopelessness, many of us feel that talking (bitching) about the freezing temperatures, the arctic wind, the drifting snow will somehow turn our winter wonderland into a tropical paradise. I, on the other hand deal with the cabin fever in a different way: I cook and bake up a frenzy. The biggest challenge is then getting all of the results out of my house with little or minimal damage to my perennial New Year’s Resolution to eat healthy. Believe me, the three boarders (I mean, kids) in my house are more than willing to lighten my burden, especially when they are all hanging around the house on a snowstorm. So yesterday was devoted to hunkering down with a puzzle, Netflix and some perfect cold weather recipes.
As I have not fully bounced back from the holiday chaos coma, I was woefully ill-prepared for the impending storm. I did not race to the store for milk and bread (or anything else for that matter) so I was limited to pantry staples as a base for my creations. Enter the brilliant Carmela Sereno Hayes, a cook in England who has produced two glorious little cookbooks of some of the most authentic Italian cooking there is. Her first cookbook focuses on cucina povera , peasant cooking and it all comes from recipes passed down in her family.
A couple of cans of white beans, some tiny pasta, a boullion cube and some pancetta and in less than 30 minutes you can have a delicious crock of hearty pasta e fagioli with a flavor that will seriously transport you to Italy. Grate some parmesan over it and serve with a crusty bread and some red wine - perfection.
Here is the recipe:
PASTA E FAGIOLI (from Carmela Sophia Sereno)
2 Tbs. olive oil
200 grams pancetta, cubed
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cans of cannellini beans in liquid
2 Tbs. tomato puree
1 tsp red pepper flakes
3 Tbs. basil, chopped
1 chicken stock cube
175 grams ditalini pasta (or any small shaped pasta)
- Fry the pancetta and garlic in olive oil in a saucepan for about 5 minutes
- Add the 2 cans of cannellini beans with the liquid along with a can of water
- Stir well and add the tomato puree, red pepper flakes, basil and stock cube. Stir well and cook for 25 minutes.
- Add the uncooked pasta to the sauce 8 minutes before cooking is complete and cook until the pasta is al dente. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with fresh bread.
Carmela has so many fantastic recipes that are easy and do not involve elaborate ingredients. I urge you to pick this book up on Amazon: Southern Italian Family Cooking
PS - there were also castagnoli for dessert. Decidedly not healthy but it’s all about balance, right?