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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pasta Fagioli

After looking into an unfamiliar subject I have a better understanding of Fusion Cuisine.

Apparently the word fusion gained popularity around the 1970’s but the concept has been around for centuries.

According to one source fusion cooking is described as “basically the mixing of seasonings and ingredients, as well as cooking styles or techniques into one new dish.”

It would only make sense that successful fusion cooking needs not only to mix but blend the above four components into a well balanced dish otherwise it may end up as “confusion” cuisine.

Being familiar with the Italian culture I remember how important it was for immigrants to bring their cultural traditions and perhaps a few pounds of favourite herbs and spices tucked away in their luggage before heading across the ocean.

Each time another member of the family or friend immigrated to Canada you would be sure to smell the fragrance of freshly dried bay leaves and oregano emanating from their suit cases at the airport.

I’m nowhere near the kitchen right now but am definitely experiencing that memorable scent.

In subsequent years there was much excitement over care packages that would occasionally make the boat or air trip from the old country. These parcels were filled with dried herbs, containers of olive oil, fresh almonds and cheese among other interesting things.

These were just a few cultural ingredients that were missed in those days but relatively easy to send over from back home. Eventually, creative substitutions were made for those ingredients that couldn’t make the trip.

Perhaps this was the beginning of a little borrowing from other cultures?

There are times while watching a cooking show I remark that no self respecting Italian would ever be caught adding a certain ingredient to such an authentic Italian dish.

I'm a little more open minded now and confess to being just as guilty when adding different ingredients to someone else’s authentic recipe! Perhaps I’ve been fusion cooking all the while without even knowing it.

My question now is “Could the coming together of a fridge full of various leftovers into a presentable dish be considered Fusion Cooking?”

Pasta Fagioli (Bean Soup)

This is my mother’s authentic Pasta Fagioli recipe also known as Pasta Fazool on many restaurant menus.
It would be interesting to know at which point in the history of this dish that pasta was added. It might very well be that some fusion may have been going on here.
On the other hand the answer could simply be that there weren’t enough beans to go around and the addition of pasta stretched the meal from four to six servings…we may never know!
I believe it’s quite possible that someone somewhere is adding their flair of culture, technique, seasonings and ingredients making this dish a totally different taste experience!

1 package of white kidney beans (750 grams)
2 stalks celery
2 to 3 bay leaves
3 to 4 cloves garlic
1 fresh tomato, seeds removed (optional)
salt to taste
olive oil
  1. Soak dry beans in lukewarm water for 3 hours.
  2. Drain and rinse beans.
  3. Place in a large pot and add enough fresh cold water to cover the beans by 3 to 4 inches.
  4. Add celery, bay leaves, garlic and salt and cook at a slow boil for approximately 1 ½ hours or until tender checking occasionally and adding more water if necessary to keep the beans totally covered.
  5. If you have cooked the entire bag of beans remove portion you may want to freeze for a later time
  6. Add a generous splash of olive oil to the remaining beans and mix with cooked pasta. Serve.

Notes, Tips and Suggestions

  • If you want to complicate things just a little and are not looking for a vegetarian dish throw in a ham hock, end piece of prosciutto or a couple of Italian pork sausages into the pot and cook along with the beans.
  • You don’t have to cook the entire package of beans at once but since they freeze very well why not cook once and prepare for a few future meals.
  • Pressure cooking the beans cuts cooking time down to less than half. (about 40 min. to cook in a pressure cooker)
  • Ditalini or tubetti shaped pasta (short, tube shaped pasta) is traditionally used in this recipe but chopped linguine is what my mother always used and the tradition continues.
  • Rice is a great substitution for the pasta.
  • A sprinkle of hot chili flakes brightens the flavour of this dish.
  • Make sure you freeze a small container for when your make your Minestrone Soup.


  1. It's sort of funny to think of Immigrants traveling with "herbs" in their suitcases - the term might have a different connotation in the 21st century, no? Now that you're a resident "fusion cooking" expert, maybe you'll expand your taste palate to include curry powder or cumin? The possibilities are truly endless!

  2. one of our favorite recipes, make it least 2 -3 times a month, only difference is I add a bit more tomato, yummy.

  3. Hi Elizabeth,
    I agree, perhaps the 21st century customs experience at the airport might result in no spices going home and a little side trip for the person bringing them!
    I am by no means an expert on fusion cooking therefore will have to watch a few more episodes of Iron Chef America on the cooking channel before "infusing" curry powder and cumin without causing "confusion."
    I'm still exploring the endless possibilities of bay leaves and oregano for now.

  4. Hi Marianne,
    I've seen these beans served in a good amount of tomato sauce also.
    Was this your original recipe or did you do a little fusion cooking and add the sauce as a preference later on?
    Since I cook many recipes with sauce I prefer to keep this white just for sake of something different.
    Either way I agree...Yummy!!

  5. your daughter who is still craving your calamariMarch 26, 2012 at 12:49 PM

    How about this recipe with a side of fried calamari? Maybe this will be true 'fusion' of random food ingredients!

  6. I've never heard of "random fusion."
    Next you'll be asking for fried calamari with a side of cream puffs...beyond fusion!!

  7. Don't forget about my beloved macarons... salted caramel, please!