ll Cibo é L'essenza Della Vita....

"The rooms that you use on a daily basis are the rooms people will always want to sit in, because they have soul." --Bunny Williams


"If you want to live forever and ever, drink wine and eat maccheroni." ~~~Sicilian Proverb

Thursday, February 25, 2010

FA Foodie Friday Pignolata and a Zippy Bean Soup

           It's time for another Foodie Friday, our favorite weekly Blogland event. Thank you to our gracious hostess, Michael , who is so generous with her talents and inspirations- not to mention her fabulous giveaways!

You can go to pretty much any Italian restaurant anywhere and find some version pf Pasta e Fagiole on the menu. Or, better known in any true American/Italian family as "Pasta Fazool". Some make it more soupy, some make it thick, some make it "white" (no tomatoes), and sometimes it's more of a sauce with beans. Meat is optional. Personally, I like it any way I've ever had it, but the beauty of Pasta e Fagiole is in it's versatility. Today's version is thick, somewhat creamy with a little kick from a bit of red pepper and some fresh ginger (my Italian is a bit rusty, but I believe my Nonna called it zenzero?- she firmly believed ginger could cure what ails you), and even better the second day. This was dinner last night along with some tender pork cutlets and an easy homemade foccacia bread.  

Today, I needed to use up some veggies in the fridge so I threw together a frittata for lunch and decided to grab my camera along the way.

I had to put this picture in because my son thought the freaky looking fork was "way cool!"

 Last, but not least, I had to throw in a sweet.

  Now, in Italy, cakes generally tend to be simpler productions than we're accustomed to here in the States. Sugary buttercream frostings and thick, super sweet cakes are not the norm.

   Pignolata is a Tuscan almond cake with pignoli- pine nuts. Each village has it's own recipe with some being more like a thin, dense almond flavored "brownie" and some being a bit more "cake-like". It's excellent with a cup of hot espresso and my grandmother frequently fancied it up with a spoonful of warmed raspberry jam on top. Personally, I don't think it needs any fancying- this is a comfort food of my childhood and needs no improvement in my book.

I don't generally use a recipe for most of my soups, but I tried to measure yesterday. Keep in mind that I'm still a little loopy from lack of sleep as my entire household was sick last week, but there's really no way to hurt this. Whatever you do, it will be delicious. 

By the way, some people use water as the base, others prefer a chicken or beef or vegetable stock. In Italy, it's common to use a mix, known as Brodo Misto or Mixed Broth. This could be a mix of chicken and beef or veal. The good, frugal Italian housewife uses whatever she has around. 
        For this soup, I used 8 cups of vegetable broth,  4 cups of chicken, and a little water

Pattie's Creamy, Zippy Pasta e Fagiole with Tomatoes

1 1/2 pound Northern beans (I had a 2 lb. bag that had been opened, so I'm guessing here)
about 1/2 cup olive oil
5 ounces ( about a cup) chopped pancetta (our market sells 5 oz. containers of diced pancetta- that's what I used)
4 cloves garlic, smashed and minced
3 stalks celery diced
about 1 1/2 cups chopped fennel
3 carrots diced
3/4-1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes (start with 3/4- don't overpower the soup)
2 tsp salt (I use Kosher)
about 1 1/2 cups chunky tomato sauce (I had leftover sauce so in it went!)
1 good spoonful of prepared pesto
2 tsp minced fresh ginger or 1 tsp powdered
1 bag baby spinach, steamed, drained, and chopped

     You can soak the beans overnight or do as I did. Cover the beans with cold water, bring to a boil, cover and remove from heat. Let sit one hour and drain.
Heat olive oil in heavy pot and add pancetta. Saute till it starts to brown. Add garlic and saute 3-4 more minutes till golden and starts to crisp. Add the onion, carrots, celery, fennel, red pepper, and salt. Saute for 10-15 minutes till the vegetables start to soften and color. Add about 12 cups of liquid (I used 8 cups veggie broth and 4 cups of chicken broth), tomatoes and pesto. Stir in beans and simmer about 1 1/2-2 hours.
In small batches, puree 8-10 cups of soup (depending on your preference) in a blender with the ginger. Stir it all back together and stir in chopped steamed spinach. This can be served on it's own or over a bit of cooked pasta. I always cook the pasta separately and add to each serving to avoid the pasta getting mushy. Serve with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!


Pignolata alla Patrizia

1 1/2 cups pine nuts plus more for top of cake, lightly toasted                                   
3/4 cup sugar processed in food processor with 1 cup almond paste till completely incorporated
3 sticks butter, at room temperature 
zest and juice of 1 lemon plus zest of 1 orange
3 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons baking powder
4 whole eggs
 heaping 1/2 cup sour cream or creme fraiche
4 large egg whites
6 tablespoons sugar 

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
Cream the sugar, butter and citrus zests together (I use a stand mixer with the paddle).  Scrape down occasionally.
Add 2 cups of the flour and baking powder.  Mix until incorporated and then add 2 eggs, one at a time, mixing till completely incorporated before adding the second egg.  Add the remaining flour, mix well, then add the last 2 eggs, again one at a time
Add the creme fraiche and lemon juice and beat till smooth. As you continue mixing, add the lemon juice and incorporate. Scrape down the sides and bottom and mix well with a spatula.  In a separate bowl, with very clean beaters, beat egg whites on high till frothy. Very slowly add sugar and continue to beat till it forms stiff glossy peaks. Fold a third of the egg whites into the batter using a rubber spatula to combine well.  Add the rest of the meringue and fold in well until the mixture is combined.  I use my stand mixer on the very lowest speed. Fold in the pignoli  I used a 12” tart pan with a removeable bottom today because I can’t find my 12 “ springform pan :(  Spray well with PAM and spread batter in pan. Sprinkle some more pignoli on top and bake for 45-50 minutes till it tests done.
Remove from the oven and let cool in the pan for about 30-40  minutes Carefully remove to a  cake rack to cool completely.  For the record, the spring-form pan works better- it was a bit messy getting the cake out of the pan today. When completely cool dust with confectioner’s sugar and serve plain or topped with warmed jam. This cake freezes well too.

As Always,

Buon Alimento, Buon Amici,

Pattie and Allie


  1. I have never made Pasta e Fagiole, your recipe looks great! Thanks for sharing!

  2. Wow! I have never heard of Pignolata before, but it contains almond paste (yum) and pine nuts (yum). I adore almond paste and marzipan. I want to make this! Take Care! Joni

  3. What interesting recipes, and such beautiful pictures!!

  4. I love you white plates! I love to get pasta e fagioli at Olive Garden but I never know how to pronounce it. All your food looks delish! Joan

  5. wow che buona questa torta!!!! bravissima!! baci!

    I ADORE, AND I DO MEAN ADORE Pasta e Fagioli!

  7. Hello Patti & Allie~ ~
    Yes, sweet Allie There are other dinosaurs who use linens for every meal. Teenagers??!
    You know I spend so much time cooking, and I do love it so I can't complain, that when I finally sit down to eat with the family I want it to be pleasurable and a pretty table does it for me.

    I have a napkin bucket in the laundry room and I put all the used napkins in it and when it's full I soak them then wash them, then iron them~ ~ ~Wait, maybe I am nuts! Thank goodness Mother enjoys ironing. I've got loads of them.

    Thanks for the comment on the White Clam Sauce. I think the lighter white sauce is better with clams than a tomato based sauce. The taste of the clams is so delicate that tomatoes overpower them.

    I'm sure your Dad loves it when you make a special meal for him. Give him a hug for me you are lucky to have him.
    ~ ~Ahrisha~ ~
    Speaking of a pretty table yours in the last post was lovely with the square white china.

  8. I love Italian cooking and these two recipes are why - deliciously simple and flavorful food!

  9. These look so good! Tony & I are sitting here smiling as we read about your family! Tony's mom is very italian and dad is very irish!! Great combination and they are an exciting full of life family :)
    We are so happy to have found your blog:)
    Wendy & Tony

  10. Pattie and Allie,

    The whole meal looks wonderful. Why do I read about food before lunch when I am starving???


  11. Everything, as always, looks delicious. The soup, however, really grabbed my eye. I'm also tempted by you torte. Wish I had pine nuts in the house. Tomorrow is another day :-).

  12. Wow great recipe! Healthy too! I like it...
    I'm glad to know that my Scotch egg post brought back such great memories... They are fun to make with kids too cause they are so easy;
    ~Really Rainey~

  13. This recipe looks perfect... especially that fritata...all that lovely cheese and such lovely pictures!

  14. Pattie we adore Pasta e Fagiole .. it is so satisfying and delicious.

    After snow shoveling this morning ( we got over 19 inches on snow in NYC!)my husband and I made a frittata for breakfast :-) Tell you son that fork does look "way cool" -- it looks like the bones of a hand!

    I've eaten pignolata cookies, but never a pignolata cake! It looks so good! I copied down your recipe and will try it soon. Thanks!
    ♥ Pat

  15. Everything looks really wonderful! Hope you have a great weekend! :-)

  16. wow omg can I come to dinner?

  17. Hi Pattie and Allie! the pasta and the cake look awesome!! N beautiful pictures too...MMMMM hope u have a good day (^_^) tq fr dropping by !

  18. Catching up over here. It's always a pleasure. Your family is SO blessed to have you watching over them with such love and care. Your recipes are all amazing and the tablescape below is beautiful as well. I loved seeing your collection of coasters and doilies. No, I can't imagine the hours of work that went into making them!
    I LOVED the pics in your Anniversary post. That first one, especially...Wow! I was very touched to read of your special marriage and all you have been through together.
    I hope everyone is over the bug by now.
    Take care,

  19. I swear I gain 5 pounds everytime I visit here! LOL Everything looks so yummy! I really want to make that cake! It just looks like an awesome cake to have with a good cup of strong coffee!

  20. Gorgeous photos and I love the shape of the white plate!

  21. I would love to be your neighbor...Quite the cook! WoW! Hi, I'm Meme from Screaming Meme...If you get a chance stop in and visit me! I hope to see you soon! Meme


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