Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Pasta e Fagioli - or soup is the ultimate comfort food in the rain

Rain has returned to England after that unusually glorious June. Although there was sunshine in the afternoon yesterday, it felt very much a temporary reprieve.

It was therefore time for a comforting homemade soup. I am not an experienced gardener but Simon and I have gone a bit wild with growing vegetables in pots on our small patio and we had home-grown courgette (zucchini), purple French beans (were they meant to be purple?), tiny mutated carrots that looked like curled-up shellfish, and young ruby chard that could all be chopped and simmered with store-bought onion, garlic, tinned tomatoes, basil and oregano. Near the end, I added a tin of cannellini beans and a big scoop of (gluten-free) macaroni.

Serve with a dollop of pesto, lots and lots of grated parmesan, bread (real or not) and a glass of white wine. I dressed for dinner and Simon wore a suit as he'd just come in from his first day in his new job.

Pasta and bean soup has always been one of my favourites since I used to beg my mom to buy Progresso Macaroni and Bean at the one shop that carried it. I used to sit at the kitchen table with my book, a big bowl of steaming soup, and potato chips (crisps to the Brits.)

When I was a young teenager, I saw Rachael Ray make her own version on 30-Minute Meals and it was one of the first dishes I cooked (successfully) for my family. My current recipe is still based on hers.

I loved it so much that I wrote a story called Sapphire Skies Over Milan with 'Pasta e Fagioli' as it's called by the Italians as a central theme. This story got me a first place win at A.R.T.S. and $3000. Until recently, you could still find it on the NFAA website, but I can't find it now. (As a side note, in searching for it, I was slightly concerned by this newsletter which lists a student winning a short story contest the year after with a story of exactly the same name! Am I paranoid to find this a little suspicious?)

Anyway, a taste of the summer harvest and a comfort in the rain. Could you get any better?