Italian Pasta Soup

I remember that I promised to post the recipe for this some time ago, so here it is at long last.  (It's actually called "pasta e fagioli" but I feel pretentious trying to say that with an Italian accent.  Also, any accent I do tends to come out French.  Bad French.  Like "enchilada," for example.  I've been ridiculed for saying "onn-chilada" instead of "enn-chilada" . . . ahem . . . Rachael.)

Sam informed me last night that he thinks this is his favorite soup.  (A high honor---since I make a lot of soups.)  I make it frequently in the wintertime, because I like the faint touch of heat from the red pepper flakes, and because it's made from ingredients I always have on hand.  And so, I give you:

Italian Pasta Soup

4 slices bacon, chopped (optional---I hardly ever add this)
1 onion, diced
1 red or yellow bell pepper, diced (optional---I like the extra color it gives, though)
1 T. fresh oregano (or 1 t. dried)
1/4 - 1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 cans diced tomatoes
2 cans white beans---cannellini or great northern
5-6 c. chicken broth (or water)
8 oz. small pasta, such as orzo or ditalini (I like to use whole wheat)
2 T. fresh parsley, chopped

more fresh parsley, chopped
fresh-ground salt and pepper
olive oil
any kind of grated white cheese--I like parmesan but white cheddar or mozzarella works too

If using bacon, fry it and then remove it from the pan, then saute the onion and bell pepper in the bacon grease.  (If not using bacon, just saute the onion and pepper in olive oil.)  Stir in oregano, red pepper flakes, tomatoes (with juice), beans (drained), broth or water, and 1 t. salt.  Bring to a simmer and cook for 10 min. or so.  Stir in pasta and cook till slightly underdone.  Finish seasoning to taste.  (Add bacon back in, if using.)  Stir in 2 T. fresh parsley.  Sprinkle each bowl with cheese and parsley, and drizzle with olive oil.


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