Ray’s Recipe for one: Mom’s Secret Bean Soup

I grew up in an Italian family surrounded by other Italian families, it wasn’t Italy. It wasn’t near Italy. If garlic is a spring fragrance, it was always spring.  No one ever complained about bad breath – because we all had bad breath if you think garlic breath is offensive.

Every meal my mom cooked began with a base of garlic and onions sautéed in EVOO. It was the base for sauce, stuffing for the Thanksgiving turkey, and of course the family staple, meatballs.

My mom was not one to share recipes. She guarded her recipes like the government guards Fort Knox. Why am I sharing this segment of my life story with you? God only knows. Maybe I ate one too many pistachios at lunch. Hey, it’s my weird sense of humor.I’m going to show you how to make my mom’s healthy Pasta

Enough of my digressing. I’m going to show you how to make my mom’s healthy Pasta Fagoli, AKA Italian bean soup. Well, sort of, because she never shared the recipe. I am going on memory. She never wrote it down, it was a little of this, a little of that, a pinch here and a pinch there until it tasted the way she wanted it to taste. Once here taste buds sent the signal that it was perfect, we could sneak spoonfuls of soup from the big pot. I may not get her recipe right but the bean soup I make is awesome. My statement is based on reviews, don’t believe me? Check out Google or Yelp. Please don’t. I admit I’m the reviewer. But, I liked it so much I ate four bowls.

First things first – use garlic at your own peril – I’m still working off my garlic overload from childhood.

Essential tools: Slow cooker, slow cooker liner, can of kidney beans, red wine, and a box of crushed tomatoes.

I buy the low sodium kidney beans, don’t panic. If you prefer high blood pressure, pour in the salt to taste. The first task, line the slow cooker. I’m not lazy, I just don’t like cleaning a slow cooker after dinner. I open the can of beans. I use an electric can opener. I save my energy for the gym. I pour the can of beans into the slow cooker, sans top. What can be more fun than that? Don’t answer. I empty the box of crushed tomatoes on top of the beans – let’s party. Is it Cinco de Mayo yet? We need some liquid – I put two cups of low sodium chicken broth in the cooker.

I empty the box of crushed tomatoes on top of the beans – let’s party. Is it Cinco de Mayo yet? We need some liquid – I put two cups of low sodium chicken broth in the cooker.  Notice the low sodium theme? Time for vino – No, we’re not going to go to a wine tasting event. I take out the cork of my inexpensive, yet tasty Merlot, tilt the bottle and make the tomatoes, beans, and broth happy. How much wine you ask? I don’t measure, so I’ll say a good splash. I sprinkle crushed red pepper on the mix, and a shake or two of Italian seasonings. I turn the cooker on and set it for 8 hours. I’m going to leave it alone for tour hour. Before I take off, I scoot to the herb garden and harvest rosemary and basil. The plant to the left is basil. The plant to the right is rosemary.

I’m going to leave it alone for four hours. Time flies when you’re having fun. The four hours are up. It’s time to kick it up a notch. I cut up a poblano and jalapeno (mom would approve – I live in San Antonio – When in San Antonio, do as the San Antonians do). Add onion, a red pepper, yellow pepper and put the top on. One hour before I eat, I’ll add a bit of chopped kale and a third cup of pasta (it’s not bean soup without pasta). IMG_6502.jpg

A half hour before the soup is done, it’s fragrance is making my stomach scream for a taste – I give in to quiet it down. Oh man, it is good. Time to grate the Parmigiano Reggiano.

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Thanks Mom. I love this soup.

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