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Pasta e Fagioli (Pasta and Bean Soup)

 1.50 cups dried beans (Cannellini, kidney, navy or cranberry are all good)
 2 tbsp sunflower or olive oil or butter
 2 cups total mirepoix: 1 onion, 2 ribs of celery, 2 carrots, diced
 3 cloves of garlic, minced
 1 smoked ham hock, soaked overnight (reserve water)
 4 cups stock
 0.50 tsp herbs & spices: dried basil, thyme, oregano, red pepper flakes;
 1 bay leaf
 2 cups frozen chopped tomatoes, thawed and pureed (or one 16 oz can crushed/pureed tomatoes)
 0.50 lb dried macaroni (tubetti, ditali/ditalini, fusili, elbow....)
 1 parmesan cheese rind (keep the grated cheese for serving)
 1 bunch roughly chopped mustard greens, chard, or kale
 0.50 cup bunch parsley, roughly chopped
 1 lemon, cut in half

Rinse beans, then soak overnight in cold water and drain. Also, soak ham hock overnight in cold water, changing water once (otherwise will be too salty.) Reserve the soaking liquid for extra stock. In a large, heavy-bottomed pot like a 6 qt dutch oven, heat up the butter to sauté your mirepoix veggies (the onions, carrots and celery) and garlic for about 5 minutes over medium heat. Add in the dried spices and 1 tsp salt, and stir to coat the veggies evenly, cook for another minute.


Add in the ham hock, and cover to steam for about 5-7 min. Add in the tomatoes with their juices, the beans, the stock (use enough to cover), the parmesan rind and the bay leaf. Let the whole pot simmer for 2 hours on low, or until the beans are tender. While the soup is simmering time, bring a separate pot of salted water to a boil, and cook then drain the macaroni. This can also be done in your slow cooker-- low for 6 to 8 hours.


Remove the soup pot from the heat, and discard bay leaf and parmesan rind. Remove ham hock to a carving board, pick off and shred the meat and put it back into the pot, discard the bones/gristle/fat. Taste to adjust the seasoning. If you like a thicker soup, remove half of the soup and puree it, then add it back in (or use an immersion blender to blend it partially), and then add in the cooked macaroni and the greens. Stir for a minute or two so the greens wilt, and then serve with parsley, a squeeze of lemon juice and healthy dose of grated parmesan on top.