Monday, February 8, 2010

Tuscan Beans & Pasta

Something to know about this up front: you will have to sweep your floor after making this dish. Things get a little hairy for about 5 minutes because it turns out brittle spaghetti does not like to be stirred. But ultimately, it's worth it. This pasta is cooked like risotto, in that you add liquid to the starch and wait for it to be absorbed before adding more liquid. This is a--gulp--Rachel Ray recipe (adapted), though how she made it in 30 minutes I have no idea. Plan on closer to an hour.

5 - 6 cups chicken stock
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 pound chunk pancetta or bacon, cut into small dice
4 cloves garlic, minced
6 - 10 ounces spaghetti, broken in half
1 medium onion, chopped
1 carrots, cut into small dice
1 bay leaf
5 - 6 sprigs fresh thyme (dried is fine too)
1 15-ounce can Roman beans or small white beans
1 cup dry white wine or vermouth
1 cup grated Parmesan
salt & pepper
1/2 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
lemon wedges (optional)

Bring the stock to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and brown slightly. Add the garlic and spaghetti and toast the pasta slightly, 3 - 4 minutes. [This is when everything starts flying. Be patient!] Add onions, carrots, bay leaf and thyme. Soften veggies a bit, about 5 minutes. Add wine or vermouth and allow it to be completely absorbed. Add beans, then a few ladles of stock and stir the pasta. Keep adding stock a few ladles at a time, allowing liquid to be mostly absorbed before adding more. When the spaghetti is cooked to al dente turn off the heat, add a little more liquid and stir in the cheese. Adjust seasoning. Remove the bay leaf and thyme stems. Garnish with parsley and lemon wedges.

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