Friday, March 12, 2010
As most people know, Catholics and some other Christian groups go without meat on Fridays in Lent. Indeed, the Catholic Church has not quite abolished the practice of meatless Fridays throughout the year, but still recommends them to the faithful. This practice can be abrogated on other Fridays of the year, however, if other acts of penance or reparation are done instead. For you and me, it might be eating lesser meals on Fridays, or giving to charity, sacrificing some other pleasure or privilege, or doing some secret good deed for another person.
In Lent, however, we are to abstain from meat on Fridays, period. Well, not quite period, because of course during Lent we are to fast, give more time to prayer and bible study, give alms and in general, pull back from the world a bit more in order to deepen our faith and our walk with Jesus.
So on these Fridays, we turn to seafood dishes or humble ethnic recipes to fulfill our obligation. Now, we can go "American Ethnic", which is fish sticks and macaroni and cheese, or grilled cheese sandwiches with tomato soup! Then there are the various other soups, such as Clam Chowder, or Lentil soup. For us Italian-Americans, we usually have a lot of favorites in our arsenal, most of which include some kind of pasta, vegetable, and sauce. Spaghetti with clam, or shrimp or artichoke sauce, for example, and greens and beans for another.
A favorite at our house is the old standby, "Pasta e Fagioli", which means Pasta and Beans. Somehow the pronunciation of the dish has devolved into Pasta Fazool, and I am not here to speculate how it did that.
I came not to explain Pasta Fazool
I came to cook it.
And eat it.
You will need a larger pot to cook the pasta in. Fill it 2/3 full of cold, salted water. You will use a smaller sauce pan to start your sauce and beans in. You assemble:
2 cups uncooked elbow or other small macaroni (e.g. ditalini, small shells, etc.)
1 15 oz. can of (I use Hunt's) plain tomato sauce. Or use 2 small cans.
1 15 oz. can of cannellini (white kidney beans), or great northern beans
As many cloves of garlic as you want (I always use at least 3 because hubby loves garlic).
Parsley (fresh is great, dried is fine; ditto for following spices)
Crushed red pepper flakes.
Turn the big pot on to have the water come to a vigorous boil, and proceed with the following:
Cut up the garlic finely and saute in olive oil (maybe a couple of tablespoons of oil). Don't let the garlic burn, but let it just be a bit translucent. I find that it is helpful to have your cans of beans and sauce open and ready to be poured, and have your spices at hand.
Add beans (juice and all), sauce, and some liberal shakes of spices. A little crushed red pepper goes a long way, so be conservative with that. Let this cook together, well stirred, for 5 minutes or so, or until your pasta water is boiling. When water boils, add the elbows and cook for 5 -7 minutes. After this, drain off half of the water, or so that the water is just barely to the top of the pasta. Add in your sauce/bean mixture, and cook till elbows are soft but not squishy - sort of al dente.
Serve with generous amounts of grated parmesan or romano cheese. Enjoy with a tossed salad and maybe some bread. If the dish is not salty enough for you, add some more to taste. Usually when you use the pepperoni (which would be cut up and sauteed with the garlic), it is salty enough, but meatless may require a little addition.
This is really delicious and satisfying as only peasant food truly is. I wish you a happy Friday and a blessed Lent!