Gnocchi e Fagioli (or, Hot Damn Y’all, My First Post!)

Holy crap, this is it! My first recipe on Plate of Flux. The title comes from my love of puns and the fact that I’m starting this blog at a point in my life where I’m going through a lot of changes (or at least I hope to be soon). The summer before my last year of university is a weird and terrifying limbo. I can’t help but think about what’s next, but I also still have a long way to go until I get there. So what do we do when we’re overwhelmed with anxiety about our futures? We eat (and cook) our feelings!

This is actually terrifying for me, as food is the one passion in life I have yet to grow to hate. I’ve pretty much loved cooking since I first started three and a half years ago, and have since added nonsense like baking to that sphere of passion. To be perfectly honest, I am genuinely terrified that committing so much extra time to cooking, baking and food-related things will eventually make me hate it (as pretty much everything I have ever done has turned out), but let’s do this anyway!

Pasta e Fagioli, or “pasta and beans”, is a really awesome way to enjoy a hearty pasta dish as a vegetarian or vegan (neither of which I technically am, but more on that later). Typically served in a thin broth with macaroni, pasta fazool is a staple of Italian cuisine. I’ve decided to amp up the heartiness by adding potato-based gnocchi and a thick tomato sauce.

When gnocchi is the star of the dish, it’s usually served with a simple and light sauce. In my gnocchi e fagioli, however, gnocchi helps compliment the somewhat pasty texture of the beans with its dense and chewy texture, making this pasta dish an Italian twist on a traditional potato and bean stew.

I opted for store-bought gnocchi this time, which was a little tricky to cook. I bought two packs of Del Verde gnocchi, which can be found in the dried pasta section of the grocery store. It was sort of clumped together in the package, so I had to break it up with a spoon while it was cooking, but it still turned out fine. I will definitely try my hand at some homemade gnocchi next time around, but the store-bought option is still a good one!

This recipe took me about thirty minutes to make from start to finish, so it will probably take the average human about ten minutes. I sadly have terrible time management skills, so I don’t think I will ever be competing on Chopped.

Gnocchi e Fagioli

Serves 6-8 people

  • 1 small green pepper, finely diced
  • 1 small yellow onion, finely diced
  • 2/3 cup shredded carrots
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, very finely chopped
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • 3 cloves of garlic, pressed or finely chopped
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes (or more if desired)
  • 1 can cannellini (white) beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 can kidney (red) beans, strained and rinsed
  • 1 can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 kg gnocchi (homemade or store-bought)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Optional: ½ cup of white wine, for deglazing, and a sprinkle of parmesan, for serving
  1. Put a large pot of water (filled about two-thirds) on high, and add salt. It’s very important when cooking pasta to salt the water! It just saves on having to over-salt the sauce. Don’t be shy with the salt either. You want to be cooking your gnocchi in the Atlantic.

2. While the water is boiling, heat the EVOO on medium heat in a small Dutch oven or medium sauce pot. There’s going to be a lot of sauce, so it’s better to use a pot that’s too big rather than be stirring right at the brim. Cook the garlic, onions and oregano until the onions are slightly soft, about 2 minutes. {I would like to take this opportunity to talk to you about our Lord and Saviour Fresh Herbs. Fresh herbs cannot not under any circumstances be swapped out for dried herbs. Don’t ask why, just don’t do it, okay?} Then add the green peppers and carrots, and cook will stirring for another 5 minutes. It’s okay if the peppers are not soft yet; they will soften up when the sauce simmers. Add red pepper flakes and fennel seeds, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

3. This is when you would deglaze with white wine. Let the wine cook down till reduced by half. As a quarter-Italian, I pretty much put three things in all my meals: garlic, parmesan cheese, and white wine. While the process of deglazing evaporates the alcohol in the wine, feel free to omit this step if you don’t want to be “serving” wine to kids. {Completely Irrelevant Side Note, which I feel like there will be a lot of on this blog: I went to a wonderful little Italian restaurant in Little Italy in Boston when I was sixteen, and the stuffed conchiglie I ordered most definitely had wine in the sauce, which was poorly cooked down. It was still delicious, but the alcohol was clearly still present. So if Italian-Americans don’t care about “serving” alcohol to minors, neither should you!}.

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4. Add both beans to the pot and stir until well combined. Pour in can of tomatoes and stir. Season to taste. Bring the sauce to a slow boil, then to reduce the heat to low, and allow the sauce to at least ten minutes (or all afternoon, if you’re so inclined).

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5. Once the water is boiled, add the gnocchi to the pot. Keep an eye on the gnocchi, because it can turn to mush pretty quickly. In about two minutes, the store-bought ones I used were cooked. A good indication of this is when most of them start floating the surface. I will add in more notes about homemade gnocchi when I eventually make some.

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6.Strain the gnocchi, retaining a mugful of starchy cooking water. The cooking water will help the sauce coat the gnocchi (a trick I learned from my cooking idol Rachael Ray). Carefully stir the gnocchi into the sauce as to not break them up, and add cooking water as desired to help thin out the sauce a touch. The longer the sauce was left to simmer, the more cooking water you will likely need.

7. Scoop a spoonful onto each plate. If you’re feeling fancy, or simply want to Instagram your meal, garnish your plate with basil leaves (as seen below, ‘cause you know I’m fancy). Sprinkle (or douse, in my case) some parmesan (or vegan equivalent) onto to each plate and enjoy!

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