January’s finally here – which means that two of my favorite shows are back on TV with new seasons – Worst Cooks in America and MasterChef Junior. While one leaves my speechless at the ability of 8-13 year olds (some of whom can barely look above a prep table without the help of a stool) to whip up delicious, and in some cases, highly technical, restaurant-quality dishes in short periods of time, the other leaves me speechless about how bad some people can actually be at cooking. Watching Anne Burrell on Worst Cooks in America is a real treat – she is one of my favorite celebrity chefs and there is nothing more entertaining than seeing her trying to teach cooking to someone who only cooks meatloaf in the shape of animals, someone who always burns meats because that means at least it’s cooked, and someone who made a pot roast and ended up….poisoning her dog. Suffice to say, people who are nominated on this show by their friends and family are nominated not just for their lack of cooking skills, but because they have also actually succeeded in making their loved ones fall quite ill with their food.
In between gaping disbelievingly at one of the episodes this week, I was reminded that I owned one of Burrell’s cookbooks (Cook Like a Rock Star) and I decided to flip through it to get some ideas for weekly lunches. I settled on pasta fagioli, a traditional Italian dish consisting of pasta and beans – it turned out to be a delicious, filling and an inexpensive and easily portable lunch. This particular version recommended using chives, but in my opinion, they didn’t add much to the dish, so for next time, I will prefer using basil.
Recipe adapted from Anne Burrell’s Cook Like a Rock Star
- 1/4 pound pancetta, cut into quarter inch dice
- 1 onion, diced finely
- 2 gloves garlic, finely chopped
- 1 28-ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes, mostly pureed with a few chunks (or according to your preference)
- 2 15-ounce cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
- 2 15-ounce cans chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 12 oz ditalini pasta
- Freshly grated parmesan
- 1 teaspoon dried oregano
- Basil, chopped, for garnishing
- Olive oil
- Crushed red pepper
- Heat olive oil in a wide pot and add pancetta. Over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it’s crisp (4-5 minutes).
- Toss in the onion and season with salt, red pepper, oregano, and cook for another 8 to 10 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and 1 and 1/4 cup water. Bring it to a boil, then reduce to simmer and cook for 15 minutes
- Add the cannellini beans and chickpeas to the pot and cook for 20 minutes more.
- Boil water in a well-salted large pot to cook the ditalini, which should be cooked only two-thirds of the way, being fairly hard in the middle.
- Drain pasta, reserving 1 cup of the cooking water. Add the pasta and the water to the pot with the tomatoes and beans. Cook until pasta is done, for about another 3 to 4 minutes. Taste and adjust the seasoning if need be.
- Serve sprinkled with Parmesan and chopped basil.