This is a Rachael Ray recipe that I tried recently. It takes just like the Pasta e Fagioli soup at Olive Garden. I was pleasantly surprised! (EDITED TO ADD: This tastes like the Olive Garden soup, but is actually a casserole!)
This recipe is not really labor-intensive, but does involve 3 pots/pans on the stovetop. A little juggling ability is needed. That's my only criticism of this dish. But the taste is worth it, if you can keep up with it all!
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Pasta e Fagioli al Forno
Recipe courtesy Rachael Ray, 2008
1 pound penne rigate or whole-wheat penne
1/4 pound pancetta, 3 to 4 slices thick cut like bacon
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 ribs celery from the heart with leafy tops, chopped
1 carrot, peeled and grated
1 onion, peeled and chopped
2 to 3 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves finely chopped
3 to 4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves finely chopped
1 fresh bay leaf Freshly ground black pepper
1 (15-ounce) can small white beans "Roman" beans, such as Goya brand or, cannellini beans, rinsed and drained
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
Nutmeg, to taste
1 1/2 cups grated Romano
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, cook pasta to just shy of al dente.
Chop pancetta into 1/4-inch dice.
While pasta cooks, heat a skillet with olive oil over medium to medium-high heat. Add pancetta, cook 2 to 3 minutes then add celery, carrot, onions, garlic, rosemary, thyme and bay leaf to the skillet, season with salt and pepper. Saute the vegetables until tender, 6 to 7 minutes. Add beans and heat them through. Stir in 1/2 cup wine, simmer 30 seconds more and turn off heat.
Remove bay leaf.
While vegetables cook, place a small sauce pot over medium heat, add butter, melt butter then whisk in flour and cook 1 minute then whisk in milk. Season sauce with salt, pepper and nutmeg and reduce 4 to 5 minutes, stir in half the grated cheese, turn off heat and adjust seasoning.
While sauce cooks, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat broiler to high.
Drain pasta and return to the pot, toss with white bean mixture and sauce, stir to coat, transfer to a casserole dish, top with remaining cheese and place in oven to brown, 5 minutes.