I feel inspired to pass on one of my favorite recipes. I made this for dinner tonight. It is deceptively simple, but the taste will knock your socks off. It's one of those miracles of Italian cooking. It's also inexpensive to make and super healthy.
The recipe requires a pressure cooker (my favorite is made by the Swiss company Kuhn-Rikon; I have the "Duo" set), but if you don't have a pressure cooker, you can just cook the beans in a regular pot for a longer time. By the way, I swear by pressure cooking-- it's fast, and the results are superb.
P.S. I didn't watch the Superbowl today. Instead, I went to a musical. Only afterward did I realize how that comes across.
Anyway, here's the recipe. You won't be sorry if you try this.
Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta with beans)
16 oz (2 cups) dried cannellini or Great Northern beans (or Navy beans)
2 stalks celery, diced into 1/4" pieces
4 garlic cloves, crushed
1/2 cup olive oil
1 large (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
Kosher salt (approx 1 Tablespoon, to taste; or about 1 1/2 tsp if using regular salt instead of kosher salt)
16 oz ditalini or spaghetti broken into 1 inch pieces (I use spaghetti)
Soak the beans in water for 6 hours or overnight. Use about 2 quarts of cold water.
Pressure cook the beans for 18 minutes. (You start timing once the 2nd ring of the pressure gauge becomes visible.) Be sure the soaked beans are covered by 1 or 1.5 inches of water in the pressure cooker before you close the lid.
While the beans are cooking, cook the celery and garlic in the olive oil over moderate heat in a large pot. When the garlic just starts to color, add the tomatoes, red pepper flakes and salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened.
When the beans are done, release the pressure (put the sealed pressure cooker under cold running water). Discard excess cooking liquid from the beans. Leave just enough water to fully cover the beans. Add the hot beans and the cooking liquid to the tomato sauce. Bring the mixture to a simmer, mashing some of the beans with the back of a large spoon.
Stir in the pasta and simmer, stirring often, until the pasta is al dente, tender yet still firm to the bite. The mixture should be very thick, but add a little boiling water if it seems too thick. Turn off the heat and let stand for 10 minutes before serving.
This makes a large batch, enough for 8 full-meal servings or up to 16 pasta course servings. Serve with a green salad and a dry red wine (or sparkling water if you don't drink wine). It stores well (refrigerated or frozen) and can be reheated without loss of texture or flavor.