The Sopranos is one of my all time favorite tv shows. Irving and I watched it a few years ago, after the first few seasons had aired, and watched them on dvd back to back to back in seemingly endless marathons. I grew up in Philadelphia, and even though I lived in a decidedly different kind of area than where the Sopranos took place, the show just feels familiar—watching it reminds me of my east coast roots, despite not knowing any wise guys myself! I really loved the show (but hated the ending, right?) and I think it might be time for another marathon!
A few years ago for Christmas Irving gave me The Sopranos Family Cookbook as a bit of a gag gift, but it ended up being a really great book! Each chapter focuses on a type of food paired with a character of the show, and tells stories from the point of view of that character. I get sucked in and sometimes forget that it’s fictional!
Recently I got it out because Irving was looking for a traditional homemade spaghetti sauce. As I was flipping through I saw a recipe for Pasta Fagioli, or Pasta Fazool. I have a very distinct memory of Carmela Soprano saying something about Pasta Fazool in one of the episodes—it has just stuck in my head over all of these years! So when I stumbled on the recipe and saw that it was already vegan I decided to make it. And then I realized that the directions hardly made any sense, so I had to sort of make it up as I went along.
So here is my version of Pasta Fazool. It starts with a semi-traditional red sauce with a twist. Sautéed celery and garlic give a unique flavor to canned tomatoes with a big dose of basil. Then white cannellini beans are added to give the sauce a hearty boost of protein and a slight creaminess/chunkiness. Pour this over your favorite small pasta—I of course like traditional white pasta, but on my new allergy-friendly diet for Jonathan I also enjoyed the sauce with Tinkyada brown rice pasta and it was delicious (photos are taken with gluten FULL pasta)! The best part is that you can make the sauce in the time it takes to boil the water and cook the pasta!
This is a great dish to serve to the non-vegans in your life, as it is made from completely “normal” ingredients! Pair it with a big salad and some great wine and you’ve got yourself a winning dinner!
3 celery ribs, chopped
4-6 garlic cloves, minced
2 T olive oil
1 28 ounce can of crushed tomatoes
1 T tomato paste
1 t salt
pepper to taste
½ c basil, julienned (cut into thin strips), plus more for garnish
3 cups cannellini beans (2 cans, or about 1 c of dried beans cooked)
up to 1 c water to thin the sauce
1 pound of small pasta
Bring a large pot of water to a boil.
Meanwhile, heat olive oil in a large sauté pan or medium sauce pot. Add chopped celery and cook until starting to brown. Add minced garlic in and cook for another minute. Add the tomato paste, can of chopped tomatoes and basil and bring to a simmer for about 5 minutes. Add the cannellini beans to the sauce. Using a potato masher or back of a large spoon, smash about half of the beans, leaving te other half intact. Mix well and set aside to continue simmering. Add up to 1 cup of water to thin sauce as desired (you can even make it more of a soup like consistency if you prefer).
Once your water has boiled, salt it generously and add your pasta. Prepare according to package directions.
Place cooked pasta in individual serving bowls and top generously with sauce. Top with more basil. Enjoy!
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