Pasta Fagiole, Sausages with Peppers, and Assorted Antipasti

by Kelly on August 26, 2009

I love having people over for dinner. I love planning a menu around their tastes and dietary restrictions. I love shopping for high-end special occasion ingredients and flowers for the table. I love seeing how many place settings I can squeeze onto my dining table. I love the rush of preparing a big meal while trying to keep my kitchen intact. But mostly, I love sharing good food and good conversation with friends and family. There are few things that please me more than a home-cooked dinner and lively, loud conversation (usually after a few bottles of wine have been opened), except maybe the hush that sometimes falls over my guests if I’ve made something particularly good and they have no time to speak between mouthfuls.

This week my husband Reuben’s lovely grandmother, Ellie, visited Milwaukee. I invited her, Reuben’s parents, my grandparents, my parents, and my sister to join us for dinner. Since I had to prepare enough food for 10 adults with two small children underfoot, my menu was simple. Most items could be prepared in advance, during the kids’ nap time. Note that I doubled the soup and sausages recipes below to serve 10 adults. And in case you were worrying that I let my guests go home without dessert, I also served the blueberry crumb bars Kristin posted three weeks ago.

Pasta Fagiole
from an unknown magazine card that’s been in my recipe box for as long as I remember. My apologies to whatever source I took it from years ago.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
4 cups (1 liter) chicken broth (Swanson Organic Chicken Broth recommended)
1 x 14 oz (400 g) can stewed tomatoes, with Italian seasoning (note: if seasoned tomatoes aren’t available, use regular stewed tomatoes and add 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano and 1/2 teaspoon dried basil)
1 x 19 oz (540 g) can cannellini or great northern beans, rinsed well and drained
6 oz (170 g) tubetti or ditalini pasta
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan

Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a large saucepan over a moderate heat until hot but not smoking, then cook the garlic, stirring until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the broth and tomatoes with their juices and bring to a boil, breaking up the tomatoes with a fork.

Add the beans, pasta, 2 tablespoons basil, and Parmesan and boil, stirring frequently, until the pasta is al dente. Let stand for 5 minutes before serving. (Pasta will continue to absorb liquid.) Stir in the remaining basil and black pepper to taste. Drizzle with the remaining olive oil and serve immediately.

***

Sausages with Peppers

Serves 6

1 tablespoon olive oil
6 hot and/or mild Italian sausages
2 bell peppers (one green and one red, yellow, or orange), sliced into thin strips

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over a medium heat. Add the sausages and cook for 10 minutes, turning the sausages halfway through the cooking time. Add the pepper strips and cook until the peppers are soft and the sausages are fully cooked, stirring frequently, about 10 more minutes. If the sausages take on too much color early in the cooking process, lower the heat or cover the skillet with a lid for a few minutes. Serve with a crusty baguette or good Italian bread.

***

Assorted Antipasti

Antipasti refers to the traditional first course in an Italian meal. Cheeses, cured meats, marinated vegetables and salads are typical. Antipasti selections are also perfect for picnics. For my dinner, I served the following (all at room temperature):

cheeses (one soft, one semi-soft, one hard, one goat’s cheese, and fresh mozzarella balls)
olives (I love the bitter taste of black, oil-cured olives, but you can use any type)
1 jar of sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil, julienned
marinated hearts of palm and artichokes (see recipe below)
2 baguettes, one plain and one seeded, sliced

Marinated Hearts of Palm and Artichoke

Drain and rinse 1 can of hearts of palm and 1 can of quartered artichoke hearts. Mix with 1 clove garlic, grated, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, 3 tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch of red pepper flakes. Let sit for at least 1 hour before serving.

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