(photo: traditional Calabrian Pasta and Bean Soup and/or Pasta e Fagioli)
In Italy Cranberry beans are known as borlotti and they are at the heart of the traditional Pasta e Fagioli soup. An uncooked cranberry bean has red marks but when cooked turn a brown / white color. Cranberry beans are excellent when fresh and particularly suited for hearty soups given their chestnut like flavor and texture. As an irrelevant side note, I despised Pasta e Fagioli soup as a child, but now hold the dish close to my heart and stomach and recognize the soup as a classic Italian (and Italian American) dish.
Cranberry beans are nutritional superstars, including a high fiber count (e.g., half a cup (113.4 grams) has 36% of the US Recommend Daily Allowance (RDA) of fiber. The same amount of beans also contains about 90 calories (and no fat), while half a cup of the beans offers 8 grams of protein, which is about 16% of the US RDA.
As we said, traditional Pasta e Fagioli soup is made with fresh cranberry beans but you may substitute with kidney beans
(photo: the completed dish ready to eat)
(photo: a grandson gets an early lesson in how to make pasta e fagioli with cranberry beans; something tells me he’s going to be a life long fan of pasta and bean soup)
Add the garlic, onion, and hot pepper flakes to a large pot along with 3 tablespoons of olive oil and begin heating the pot. Sautée the garlic and onion for a minute or so and add the chopped squash or zucchini and cook for 4-6 minutes. Add salt, water, and beans. Cover and simmer for 20-25 minutes. After, the beans have become tender add the pasta and cook until the pasta is al dente. Add freshly ground pepper, parsley, and fresh extra virgin olive oil, as well as grated Grana before serving. Here’s a version of the recipe that’s slightly different from Mario Batali.