At a rustic trattoria in Florence, my nephew Ryan, 17 at the time, tried to order pasta fazool. Uh, no, they didn't have it - that's not how they say it up north. (Pasta fazool is a southern dialect name for pasta e fagioli, or pasta and beans.)
So this dish is for him. Pasta and fagioli is a great warming dish with myriad variations from all over Italy. This one uses the greens of the season and gets creaminess from fresh ricotta stirred in at the end.
Makes 4 servings
2 cups tubetti or other small pasta
4 ounces pancetta (Italian bacon) or bacon, chopped
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 cups chopped greens such as kale or spinach
1/2 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground pepper
1 can (141/2 ounces) chicken broth
1 can (15 ounces)
cannellini beans, drained
1/2 cup ricotta cheese
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
Boil a large pan of salted water over medium-high heat. Add pasta; cook according to package directions until almost tender. Drain; keep warm.
Meanwhile, cook pancetta in a large Dutch oven over medium heat until fat renders and meat is browned, about 6 minutes. Add garlic; cook, stirring, until it begins to color, about 1 minute. Add greens, stirring to coat with fat. Cover; stirring occasionally, until almost tender, about 20 minutes (if using spinach, the cooking time will be 5-10 minutes).
Add salt and pepper to taste; stir in the pasta, broth and beans. Cook until heated through, about 5 minutes. Add ricotta, stirring until mixture is creamy. Season with the red pepper flakes.