There is something very special about a recipe that has been passed down through a family. In my opinion, a nostalgic, beautifully-told story enhances the flavors in any dish, and I love this story.
My friend Angela Vandett was born and raised in Creedmoor, North Carolina, and from her deep Eastern Carolina drawl to her genteel mannerisms, I consider her to be the quintessential Southern Belle. When she met her would-be husband Ric and began making trips to his home state, she learned a lot about authentic Italian recipes. This family favorite is one that Angela learned how to make from Ric’s mother during those many trips to New York. Armed with her composition book, Angela took frantic notes about how to prepare Ric’s mother’s homemade Italian cuisine so that she could bring them back to the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains.
Pasta Fagiole, as the Vandetts refer to as “Zoo,” is a signature Italian recipe. Easy to make and full of flavor, Angela shared with me that this was the dish that Ric’s mother always made for their arrival on the first night of any visit to New York. It was the perfect comfort food after hours and hours of driving. Now, when the Vandetts host family in their own home, Angela always serves Zoo on the first night of any visit just as it was in New York at her mother-in-law’s home many years ago.
From start to finish, this recipe will take you about 40 minutes.
Olive Oil or Canola Oil
8 cloves of garlic
2 – 6 oz. cans Hunts Basil, Garlic, and Oregano Tomato Paste
Water (see directions)
2 cans light red kidney beans (undrained)
1 tbsp dried basil flakes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 box Ditalini or small elbow macaroni
Fresh cracked pepper
MY AMENDMENT: My crowd loves onion, so I add 1 1/2-2 tbsp. of minced onion to this recipe to add that great onion flavor. I must add that Angela is NOT a fan of this amendment. 🙂
Cover bottom of large pot in oil, add garlic, and stir over medium heat until garlic is soft.
Add tomato paste, and fill each jar of tomato paste with water one time.
Swirl water to release any remaining paste and add water to pot.
Add cans of kidney beans and minced onion.
Add water of 3 – 4 cans of kidney beans until broth is at desired thickness.
Grind 1 tbsp basil in the heel of your hand into pot.
Add salt and pepper to taste.
Allow soup to simmer while pasta is prepared.
Prepare pasta according to package instructions and drain.
Stir one ladle of soup into pasta to keep it from sticking.
Keep remainder of pasta and soup separate.
When ready to serve, spoon pasta into bowls and cover with soup mixture. Sprinkle with grated Parmesan and fresh cracked pepper, and serve with Italian bread.