Why am I making Pressure Cooker Venetian Pasta and Beans? I already have a Pasta e Fagioli recipe, the classic Italian-American version with white Cannellini beans and small tubes of ditalini pasta. I was in for a Verona surprise my writing workshop in Italy.
We’re in the kitchen at Enoteca Della Valpolicella to learn how to make pasta. A massive pot on the side of the stove catches my attention, and I ask “what’s that?” The chef says “Pasta e Fagioli” and lifts the lid so we can peek. Through gallons of clear water, I see a layer of tan beans, dappled with white. Brown beans in Pasta e Fagioli? Not Cannellini? What’s going on? This is my introduction to regional pasta and beans, Venetian style.
The Italian-American version came from the south of Italy. We’re used to Naples style, Pasta e Fagioli Alla Napoletana. The big wave of Italian immigration to the US in the late 1800s and early 1900s was from Southern Italy, and Naples was one of the major ports of departure. That’s where the “Pasta Fazool” name comes from, too – Fasule is Neapolitan for beans.
I’m not in southern Naples, though. I’m in Verona, far to the Northeast. Pasta e Fagioli Alla Veneta is the comfort food of the former Venetian Republic. Here they make it with brown cranberry beans and thin, wide egg noodles.
This humble pot of beans and pasta is why I had to visit Italy. There’s nothing wrong with Italian-American food. It’s fantastic, a regional variation on Italian food, shaped by immigrants adjusting traditional recipes to the bounty of their new homeland. Italian-American food inspired my journey, so I could compare it to Italian cooking in its birthplace. And, like so many things, what I learned is…I have so much to learn. Comparing Italian-American to Italian food is not possible. I’m comparing Italian-American to Neapolitan, Venetian, Tuscan, Roman…so many regions, each with their own local treasures. So many reasons to go back to Italy!
Back home, I make my own pressure cooker version of the recipe, reliving my visit. The instant pot works its bean magic, and I learn what gondoliers have known for ages: Venetians know their Pasta e Fagioli. Here is my recipe for Pressure Cooker Venetian Pasta and Beans, Pasta e Fagioli Alla Veneta. Enjoy!Print
Pressure Cooker Venetian Pasta and Beans. Pasta e Fagioli Alla Veneta is hearty Northern Italian comfort food, quick and easy with this Instant Pot recipe.
- 1 pound dried borlotti beans (aka cranberry beans)
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 4 ounces diced pancetta
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 1 stalk celery, minced
- 1 medium carrot, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 2 tablespoons tomato paste
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- 10 cups water
- 1 sprig Rosemary
- 4- to 4.4 ounces pappardelle egg noodles, broken into bite-sized pieces (or extra-wide egg noodles)
- 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
- Grated pecorino Romano for garnish
- Sort and rinse the beans: Sort the borlotti beans, removing broken beans, stones, and any other non-bean material. Rinse the beans and set aside.
- Saute the pancetta and aromatics: Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in the pressure cooker pot over sauté mode until the oil is shimmering. (Use medium heat for a stovetop PC). Add the pancetta, onions, celery, carrot, garlic, and tomato paste. Sauté until the onions soften and the tomato paste starts to darken, about 6 minutes.
- Add the beans, water, salt, and rosemary: Stir the borlotti beans and the 6 cups of water into the pot. Add a teaspoon of fine sea salt, the rosemary sprig, and then lock the lid on the pressure cooker.
- Pressure Cook the beans for 40 minutes with a quick pressure release: Pressure cook on high pressure for 40 minutes in an electric pressure cooker (“Manual” or “Pressure Cook” mode in an Instant Pot), or 35 minutes in a stovetop PC. Quick release the pressure in the pot.
- Simmer the pasta, then serve: Remove the lid carefully, opening away from you – even when it’s not under pressure, the steam in the cooker is very hot. Set the cooker to sauté mode adjusted to high (medium-high heat), cover (but don’t lock the lid), and bring to a simmer. Stir the pasta into the simmering beans and cook for 6 minutes, or the time on the pasta package. Stir in 1 teaspoon fine sea salt. Serve, sprinkling with grated pecorino Romano at the table.
- My grocery stores sell pappardelle noodles in 8.8-ounce boxes, and each box has 4 nests of pasta. I use half of the package, two of the nests, and crumble the pasta into bite-sized pieces. (Whole pappardelle noodles are way too long to eat in a bean soup.)
- Can’t find pappardelle noodles? Any flat, wide egg noodle will do. They’re not “authentic Italian,” but my local grocery stores carry lots of different brands of wide and extra-wide egg noodles, which don’t need to be broken into pieces because they are already cut into short lengths for soup. Use 4 ounces – roughly 2 cups – of wide or extra-wide egg noodles.
- Can’t find pancetta? Substitute 4 ounces of bacon.
- I don’t soak the beans; it’s not necessary. If you do soak them overnight, cut the cooking time under pressure to about 15 minutes.
What do you think?
Questions? Other ideas? Leave them in the comments section below.
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