10 January 2011

Brrr! Time for Pasta Stew!

Well, I didn't get murdered by the Craigslist dryer repairman.  Turns out he was actually a dryer repairman, which is good for us because not only did I not get murdered, but we also have a working dryer again.  Phew!

But today is just a gloomy day of crap so far!  It's really frustrating when it seems that everyone else in the world is off of school and/or work, and you're not.  The brightest spot in my day so far has been this bean and pasta stew (or pasta e fagioli if we want to get all fancypants).**  Yum!  (By the way, Matt says that this just looks like a bowl of slop.  I say that it looks like a bowl of delicious slop.)

If you're snowed in, or if you're not, and if you're a fan of beans and pasta and tastiness, then you might want to give it a try.  Not too bad for you, cheap to make, and pretty easy.

Bean and Pasta Stew  (adapted from this recipe)
serves 8-10

3 cans northern beans
5 slices bacon, diced (or substitute 1 tablespoon olive oil for vegetarian version)
2 large yellow onions, sliced thin
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1/2 pound pasta
5 thyme sprigs
3 teaspoons salt
1-2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
10 ounces baby spinach
pine nuts (optional)

In a heavy stock pot or dutch oven, fry the bacon over medium heat. Once all the fat has rendered, remove the bacon with a slotted spoon and reserve. Pour off all put one tablespoon of bacon fat. Cook the onions slowly with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until they caramelize and turn golden brown, 20-30 minutes. Add the celery and cook just until the celery is softened, about 3 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Remove half of the onion mixture and reserve with the bacon. Deglaze the pan with one cup of water, scraping up any brown residue that has formed on the bottom of the pan.

Drain the beans and pour them into the pot with the remaining onions. Add the bay leaf and enough water to cover the beans and onions by one inch. Simmer for 15 minutes.

Return the pot to the stove top and set over medium-high heat. Add the bacon, reserved onions, whole thyme sprigs, remaining salt, crushed red pepper, and pasta. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the pasta is al dente. Add more water if necessary.

Add the spinach to the pot and stir until it is wilted. Remove the bay leaf and the thyme stems. Taste and add more salt and pepper if desired. Add pine nuts if desired.

This stew will keep for one week refrigerated.

Get cozy.  And stay that way.

**UPDATE.  Today took a huge turn for the better when we took a family snuggle nap that I didn't wake up from until 8:30.  When I finally peeled my body from the bed, I had a message on my phone announcing that tomorrow we will have a two-hour delay at school!  In the five and a half years that I've worked in this school system, we've never once gotten a delay or a day off for wintery weather.  I am currently beside myself with joy.**

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