Soup of the Week / Santasiero's Pasta Fasoola
Santasiero’s serves up a deceptively simple beloved Italian mixture of pasta and beans
Photos by kc kratt
1329 Niagara St.
Chef/owner John Brands, Jr.
“When the stars make you drool, just like pasta fazool ...”
—Harry Warren and Jack Brooks, “That’s Amore”
Pasta fazul, pasta fazool, pasta fasoola or (in standard Italian) pasta e fagioli—regardless of the name on the menu, it means comfort in a bowl. For over half a century, West Side mainstay Santasiero’s has been serving —on average—200 bowls of this beloved Italian mixture of pasta and beans per day.
Food historian Waverley Root gives this dish Venetian origins—according to Root’s Food of Italy, the traditional Veneto version uses beef broth and dried beans, with the beans pureed and the pasta added in the final cooking. The versions served in Italian restaurants throughout America usually leave the beans whole and tend to be chunkier, heartier affairs than their Venetian ancestors.
Santasiero’s version is deceptively simple. There seem to be three main ingredients—butter beans, garbanzo beans, and ditalini—but the rich broth, redolent of garlic, herbs, and perhaps a cheese rind, elevates the dish from a starchy filler-up to a rich, surprisingly multifaceted experience. The combination of two, very different legumes—butter (or lima) beans and garbanzos/chick peas—add chewy substance; bits of tomato contribute color and zest. When ordered as a main dish, this is served with sautéed peppers, bread, and parmesan. It’s worth taking time over.
If you need a culinary reason to embrace the approach of winter, this is one of the best in town.
Elizabeth Licata is editor of Spree.