The pasta fagioli recipe is a Southern Italian, Old World style soup. This type of Italian cooking has been going on for over a thousand years, standing the test of time and palette and is still delicious to this day.
Southern Italy, like an Italian pasta soup recipe, is a blend of all things good. You can see it in the faces of the people and not just melted into the flavors of the food. It's a mixture of Greek, Arab and Spanish thrown together in a pot. The final outcome? Perfection in a bowl!
The name of this soup recipe, called 'Pasta e Fagioli' has evolved from dialect to dialect as Italians immigrated from Italy to America, mostly congregating in New York. Over time the name of the soup was added another flavor - the Italian American flavor. Slang for this Italian pasta recipe became pasta fazool, pasta fazoo, and pastavasu. Ultimately, it's a pasta and bean soup.
Fagioli (Pha-gee-oh-lee) is the Italian word for bean. The bones are what make the beans tender and add flavor to the soup. In fact, the meat traditionally used in pasta e fagioli soup was pork. Yes pork, those grunting, snorting muddy little creatures that find those delectable and expensive truffles that we foodies love so much! It's also the predominant meat in Italy and is food to be respected.
Much like the word, the soup recipe has evolved as well. It wouldn't be unusual for neighbors to pass along from door to door the same meat bones or even a prociutto bone to be used over and over again, adding flavor to the soups being made in the kitchens of friends and family within a small town. They took what ingredients were available to them to create something nutritious, healthy and good, and I mean really good. Using those ingredients to feed family, friends, and sometimes even neighborhoods.
It's the sense of family, tradition and a true respect for life and the good things in it that Italians are most known for, food being very high on that list. So when you find yourself sitting at an Italian table and you see this masterpiece being served along with a loaf of crusty bread, a chunk of parmigiano and a drizzle of Italian olive oil remember what goes into the makings of this time old traditional meal. Things you won't find on the list of ingredients but make this Italian pasta soup much, much more then just a meal.