At my old church, there was a large crowd of homeless and unemployed people in our town so we opened up a ministry to help feed them. Wednesday night we opened our doors to feed these people. Our church operated a neighborhood, and widows and orphans food pantry service. The first time I made this soup one of our freezers in the church went out. On average there would be 100 to 200 people at the Wednesday night service.
I was in charge of menu planning. My being a lay pastor and chef made me voted in as chairman of this committee a no brainer. We had twenty pounds of Italian sausages in that freezer along with 20 lbs of kale and ten pounds of diced carrots all thawed. I needed a recipe that fed people and used up these items. Believe me when I say that I was getting pretty adept at finding recipes that would use all the meats and vegetables in the broken almost 25 cu ft freezer. It was loaded. At first, I thought sausage dogs but there was a 50/50 mixture of hot and mild sausages. I knew most would want the mild leaving me with a glut of hot sausages. That was no good. Pasta e Fagioli was the answer.
I grabbed a case of tomatoes, 10 large onions, and a couple of sleeves of celery from our cold storage. Going into the dry storage, I grabbed the 10 dusty boxes of ditalini pasta (nobody wanted and was just taking up space), 2- #10 cans of diced tomatoes, and a #10 can of dark red kidney beans, 4 jars of Parmesan cheese, a jar of beef base, 3 bottles of V8 juice, and a #10 of great northern beans. I was set! All I needed to purchase with the garlic and bay leaves. We had plenty of fresh oregano, basil, and rosemary (my donation from my garden).
A quick run to the store for the two items and I was ready to cook. My bread dough that I made earlier was ready to be molded into seven french loaves. I did that and set to work removing the sausages from the casings. By now the other five ladies in our group arrived and started prepping the vegetables. One of the ladies started browning and breaking up the sausages. Many cooks working together make large meal preparation a breeze. We made thirty gallons of soup that night with not a drop left.
So today on our homestead, I'm making Pasta e Fagioli cockeyed style and canning it too. In case you didn't know, Pasta e Fagioli translates to pasta and beans. I started it a few days ago by purchasing the ground pork and ground turkey. I do a half and half mix because of my pork sensitivity. I make mine in between a mild and hot so it's spicy but won't burn the roof off the top of your mouth. I mixed the seasonings into the meat and let it sit in my refrigerator to marry and honeymoon. I made a total weight of 5 lbs. Three lbs for the soup and two lbs for caseless sausage dogs later. Caseless sausage is meat formed into sausage links and frozen. You brown them off while partially frozen, and then cook it like cased sausage.
I diced all my clean vegetables yesterday. Being a one-handed chef has it's limitations. I'll take these short cuts when I can. I'll have my butcher grind my meat instead of me doing it. If the meat was home grown, I would be the butcher. I bought my kale already cleaned and cut up in the bags from the grocery store. But other than that, I did my own carrots, onions, celery, and garlic.
Here's my recipe. Keep in mind all of this made 4 gallons of soup.
3 lbs Italian sausage (mix of mild and hot)
*2 lb of ground beef (optional)
3 large onions, diced
1 bunch of celery, diced
1 lb of carrots, diced
12 cloves of garlic, minced
2 lbs kale, cleaned and chopped
1 gallon bag of frozen plum tomatoes or 3- 28 oz cans of diced tomatoes
2 qt jars of beef broth
2 qt jars of chicken broth
4- 15.5 oz cans of cannelini beans, rinsed (or great northern or white kidney beans)
4- 15.5 oz cans of dark red kidney beans
1- 8 oz jar of real, grated Parmesan cheese
2 tbs dried oregano
2 tbs dried basil
1 tbs dried rosemary crushed
1 tbs dried red pepper (you can add more if you want it really hot)
3 tsp black pepper
3 large bay leaves
1 tbs salt (taste soup first if using commercial broth. You may not need it)
2-3 qts water
2- bottles of V8 juice
**5 lbs of ditalini pasta or other formed pasta like macaroni or ahells
Brown the sausage in 4 gallon stock pot. When partially cooked add half of your aromatic vegetables (onions, celery, carrots.and garlic) Cook, stirring occasionally for ten minutes. Your vegetables will be cooked and tender.
While these items are in the pot cooking. Place your frozen tomatoes in a sink of lukewarm water. I turn the hot and cold water on full while filling the sink. Pour tomatoes in the sink of water. If your like me, I cored and x marked the base of my tomatoes before freezing them. The skins slip off the tomatoes after a couple of minutes. Chop the partially thawed tomatoes and add them to the pot. Stir well.
Add the oregano, basil, rosemary, pepper, bay leaves and remaining vegetables into the pot. Stir well and cook for ten minutes.
Add the beans, cheese, and kale to the pot, and add the V-8, broths, and water to the pot. Simmer for ten minutes. The kale will have shrunk down.
To serve this soup after it's canned, cook your pasta in salted water as usual, but don't drain the water. Add the jarred soup after the pasta has cooked and bring to a boil. For us, it's two handfuls of pasta to a jar of soup. Serve with crusty bread or bread sticks. Or, be like Olive Garden and add a Romaine salad. Enjoy.
* I added the canned ground beef because Mel didn't like the texture of it. A hide in plain sight and no waste kind of thing.
** hold off adding if canning this recipe.
There you have it...my cockeyed Pasta e Fagioli. It may not be an authentic Italian version, but it's mighty tasty. Today was a perfect day to make this because it was all cooked on top of our wood stove. It's the first day we've had it running all day for heat. So the bread sticks are in the oven. I left enough soup from canning 30 pint jars to enjoy all winter to have some two nights' dinner. On a colder winter night like tonight, it's a blessing! Coupled with my fresh made garlic bread sticks and a small handful of grated Parmesan cheese dressing the soup, it's a winter or anytime meal fit for a king.
Y'all have a blessed day!