Love this hearty, earthy vegetarian pasta that has such a wholesome and satisfying combination of flavors. You can easily substitute canned beans for the dried version, but beginning with the dried beans lends a creamier consistency to the beans and superior flavor in my view. It does however require some advance planning. The crispy sage is so wonderful with the rich fennel, tomatoes and beans. Cooking the rind with the sauce is an additional flavor boost. If you wanted a vegan dish, just eliminate the addition of the cheese rind. Either way, this pasta dish is delicious!
- 1 lb Rigatoni
- 1 cup dried cannellini beans (substitute 2 15 oz cans )
- 1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
- 1 15 oz crushed tomatoes
- 1 fennel bulb, 1/4 ” dice
- 1 yellow onion, finely diced
- 3 cloves garlic, minced
- 1 pint cherry tomatoes, (on the vine if available )
- Kosher salt and pepper
- 1 -2 inch parmigiano reggiano rind
- Parmesan for serving
- 2 tablespoons vodka
- 1 large bunch sage (about 24 leaves)
- fennel fronds, optional garnish
- 2 -4 tablespoons olive oil
Preheat oven to 400. Toss tomatoes with 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast tomatoes for about 20 min just until they begin to burst. Set aside.
Prepare beans according to package instructions, boiling with bayleaf. Drain liquid and set aside. To prepare sauce, heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a medium skillet, add fennel, onions and garlic, stirring frequently until soft and translucent. Once fragrant, add diced tomatoes and crushed tomatoes. Bring mixture to a boil, add vodka and cheese rind, reduce heat to low and simmer covered for at least an hour, adding a bit of water if too much liquid evaporates. Adjust seasonings to taste. Add cooked beans to the mixture during last 15 minutes of cooking, discarding bay leaf and cheese rind. Prepare pasta according to package directions to al dente, reserving a cup of cooking liquid.
In a skillet heat 1-2 tablespoons of oil to medium heat. In batches, flash fry sage leaves for just about 10 seconds to crisp. Carefully remove sage leaves from oil and place on paper-towel lined plate. Drain pasta and place it back in cooking pan along with tomato bean mixture adding reserved cooking liquid to thin sauce to desired consistency. Serve pasta in large bowl, adding a few roasted tomatoes to each bowl. Garnish with crispy sage leaves, grated parmigiano and fennel fronds. Serve immediately. Enjoy!