Saturday, August 20, 2011

Fideos y Frijoles

Basil sprouting out of the stone next to a wild milkweed plant in Casa Carmen Bed and Breakfast in San Miguel de Allende.

To be in San Miguel is to experience total hospitality, civility, gentlity, and beauty. Whatever this maligned country of Mexico is undergoing, this place is certainly an oasis. I am once again enjoying the warmth of Casa Carmen, the bed and breakfast here in San Miguel de Allende where I bring my students for a Spanish immersion program every summer.

This week, my husband and I are here together, visiting friends and enjoying the many culinary delights the city has to offer.  My husband is an Italian who is passionate and knowledgeable about cooking.   Being married to him these many years, it is no surprise that in this Mexican-Italian marriage there is so much blending of what we both love.  For example, pasta and beans.

In Mexico, it is hard to avoid beans in all their different forms. Here at the market, I always find pale green frijoles peruanos (Peruvian beans) and make a dish that would be welcome on any table in Italy. It is a replication of a dish called pasta e fagioli, an Italian peasant food.  All of the necessary ingredients can be found in Mexico or in the States. Of course, the pasta itself can be any kind of small pasta. This dish is a marriage of cultures and convenience and, I must say, a love match. I'll call it Fideos y Frijoles a la Italiana.

Fideos y Frijoles a la Italiana

Recipe Type: Soup

Author: Gilda Valdez Carbonaro

Prep time: 20 mins

Cook time: 3 hours

Total time: 3 hours 20 mins

Serves: 4 to 6

  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • 1/2 cup chopped pancetta or bacon
  • 1 stick celery, minced
  • A few celery leaves roughly chopped
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 large carrot, chopped or minced
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped finely
  • 4 cups (approximately) of white navy beans or cannellini, or pale green Peruvian beans
  • 1 cup small pasta or broken spaghetti
  • Salt to taste in sauce and in pasta water
  • 1 cup basil leaves

  1. Drop them in boiling water and turn down the heat.

  2. When the water is at a low simmer, lower the heat and cover the pot with the lid slightly shifted to allow some steam out of the pot.

  3. Let them cook at a low temperature for about 3 hours. About midway through the cooking, add a clove of garlic and salt to taste.

  4. If you run out of water, add more, but you should only add boiling water. Adding cold water will make the beans hard.

  5. The beans should be soupy when they are ready and very soft.

  1. In a pan, brown the bacon in the olive oil until golden brown.

  2. Sauté the celery and carrot in the same pan for a few minutes then add the garlic.

  3. Add the tomatoes and continue to sauté for a few minutes, then cover and keep on low heat until all the ingredients are "guisados" (cooked in the oil).

  4. Take a small portion (about a cup) of the beans and put them in the blender so that you can thicken the soup in the beans.

  5. Put these blended beans back in the pot.

  6. Add the bacon, carrot, tomato, etc. sauce and cook for 5 minutes.

  7. Put the pasta in boiling, salted water in a small pot and, before it is completely soft, strain it and add it to the beans. Let it cook for another 5 minutes. Don't let the pasta get too mushy.

  8. Serve in deep bowls and garnish with sprigs of basil.

My mother always cooked beans in a clay pot, but any stainless steel pot will do the job. You can shorten cooking time by soaking the beans overnight, throwing out the water the next day and cooking them in fresh water. Also, if you have a high quality extra-virgin olive oil on hand, drizzle a bit on the served plate. You will get the scent of the oil plus the fresh basil as you take your first spoonful.


  1. I am so glad you posted this recipe! I will share it with my family now. Thanks So Much. You ladies are welcome in my kitchen any day....Fulvio too. :)

  2. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroAugust 21, 2011 at 12:29 AM

    Alex adored this recipe, April. It's comfort food, and so inexpensive to prepare.

  3. Maria De Las CasasAugust 21, 2011 at 12:59 AM

    Me encanta este plato, algunas veces lo preparo con garbanzos. Qué rico!

  4. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroAugust 21, 2011 at 1:12 AM

    Mmmmm....con garbanzos. ¡Tendré que probarlos!

  5. I just made pasta e fagioli for the family on a cold rainy day here in Washington, D.C.,, and I will definitely try this one, too. Muchas gracias, Gilda.

  6. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroAugust 21, 2011 at 2:15 AM

    You're welcome, Tina. Glad to know it's not broiling hot in DC.
    Here in San Miguel, it's the usual 70 degree weather.

  7. I'm making this today. Even though I've made this dish many times, it's great to a have a good home recipe to refer to. Thanks Gilda.

  8. Gilda Valdez CarbonaroSeptember 10, 2011 at 11:40 PM

    That's great, Carmen. This was my mother in law's recipe, adapted to my taste since I don't like that much pasta in it.


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