Pasta e Fagiole

Eye-Opening

Once in awhile, I question some of the choices I’ve made in my life. I doubt myself and think that if I had chosen a different path for my career that I would be “further ahead” in this area, and therefore happier and more satisfied.
The other day, I went for my annual eye exam and was glad to see that I would be seen by the same ophthalmologist who has been at this place of business for years. He is a nice man with a gentle demeanor, who makes his patients feel cared for as well as just being a pleasant person to talk with. During the course of the exam, I noticed a photo of a cute little girl on his desk, and asked who she was. He told me it was his niece, and that he had cut back on his hours at work so that he could spend a few of his days off babysitting her for his sister. His face lit up as he talked about how happy he was to have this regular time with her.
On the way home, I was thinking about how a doctor spends many years in school to earn the degree that allows him to practice medicine. That choice is rewarded with a satisfying career with a nice income. But, it takes something more for life to be truly fulfilling. Like days with a 4-year-old niece, or like my days with my own kids. I am “further ahead” in the happiness area of my life because of some of the best choices I’ve made. No doubt.
Time to share a satisfying bowl of this Italian pasta with those who give me the most fulfillment, my family.

Pasta e Fagiole (pronounced: pasta fa-zhol-ay)

1 Tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 cans (14.5 oz. each) reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 can (15 oz.) diced tomatoes
1 can (15 oz.) cannellini or white beans, rinsed and drained
½ cup ditalini or other small pasta
½ lb. baby spinach or swiss chard leaves, coarsely chopped
¼ teaspoon salt
freshly grated parmesan cheese
fresh ground black pepper

Use reduced-sodium chicken broth, so you can control the amount of salt in your recipe.  The low-sodium variety doesn’t have as much flavor, but can be used by people who need a salt-restricted diet for their health.

The onions we get at the market these days are very large, even when we try to look for a small one.  I use half of a medium-sized onion whenever a recipe calls for a small one.

Warm the oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 to 4 minutes, until onion is soft. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two, being careful not to brown it.

I use baby spinach so that I don’t even need to chop the small leaves…just throw it into the pot as is, and you’ve got dinner even quicker!

Add the broth, tomatoes (with juice), beans and pasta. Turn burner to high, and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 15 minutes or until the pasta is cooked. Add the spinach leaves and salt. Cook for 2 to 3 minutes longer, or until the leaves are wilted.

This is a very healthful recipe…the beans are a good source of protein and fiber; spinach is a super-food with vitamins A, C, and iron, and the tomatoes have lycopene, which has been shown to prevent cancer.  It also tastes good, so your family will gladly eat it!

This dish is like a soup on the day you make it, but the next day it is more of a pasta dish.  The flavorful liquids soak into the pasta and make it taste even better than the day it was made.

Spoon into serving bowls and grate fresh parmesan and black pepper over the top of each.  Serve and enjoy with a crusty loaf of bread.

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