My mom called a bit ago with some feedback that made my whole day. Jimmy said the pasta fazool I sent over was just like his mom used to make. WOW!

You’d hafta know Jimmy to understand the depth of that compliment. Jimmy is 82–an old school, hardcore, 100% Sicilian, no bullshit kinda guy. He fought in Korea. He can build things, fix things, has traveled all over the world. He’ll tell you like it is and then some.

Despite his gruff exterior, he’s also the kind of guy who puts out a special dish of seeds for “his” chipmunks in my mom’s driveway and used to take my dog out for hot dogs on the Pike. He also makes killer hot peppers and sends them to me. And chicken soup. Sometimes he even puts Hershey kisses in my containers when he returns them.

Now, I’ve had Henry Hill’s cookbook on my coffee table since this summer: The Wiseguy Cookbook–my favorite recipes from my life as a goodfella to cooking on the run. Goodfellas is one of my favorite movies of all time. Henry weaves all sorts of tales of his crimes and general mischief throughout the recipes. I had been leafing through it on and off and noticed his pasta fazool called for both beef broth and chicken broth. Hmm. Interesting. I’ll hafta try that sometime.

I rarely follow a recipe to the letter, but thought it would be cool to make Henry’s recipe as written. I started prepping the vegetables and, as usual, I drained and rinsed the beans. Then I read the recipe more closely. “Stir in beans and their juice…” Henry! WTF?! I say that with respect, man. I’ve heard you speak and know you and the F-word were well-acquainted. Why would you do that?

Oh, well. I did want to do this your way, but not with all the glop and preservatives from the can, so I’ll just add more liquid. Your recipe called for 4 cups of chicken broth, 2 cups of beef–and the dreaded “bean juice.” I changed that to 3 cups of beef broth, 2 cups of chicken, 2 cups of water and 1 cup of dry white wine.

So here we are–Henry Hill and yours truly in the kitchen. It’s BYOO-dee-full! And more, much more than this, I did it “My Way.” Let’s do this thinG–for Jimmy!

from the recipe files of Henry Hill and Hope Simmons

And you’ve gotta know Henry must have said it just the way I typed it phonetically above, though, yes, it’s pasta e fagiole. Trust me, no one says it that way ’round heah.

2 slices slab bacon, cut in 1-inch pieces (local amici, PLEASE go to Meadow Meat)
1 large sweet onion, diced
8 garlic cloves, pressed
1-2 large stalks celery, sliced thin
1-2 large carrots, peeled and crinkle-cut (you know!)
2 15-oz. cans small white beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups beef broth
2 cups chicken broth
2 cups water
1 cup dry white wine
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh rosemary
Pecorino Romano (1/4 to 1/2 cup)
1 cup uncooked small pasta (I used Sclafani cavatelli)
Freshly ground black pepper
Dash cayenne pepper

I used a Dutch oven, but you could use a large pot. Add bacon, cook over medium to low heat, stirring (do not brown). Add onion and cook, stirring 5 minutes until translucent. Add garlic, celery and carrot and cook 5 minutes more, stirring.

Raise heat to medium. Stir in beans, beef and chicken broth, water, wine, bay leaf and rosemary. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes. Add pasta, black pepper and cayenne. Cook according to the package directions for the pasta you choose, till pasta is al dente. Stir in cheese.

Serve to your friends and family. And keep smilin’! CENT’ANN’!

Janey and Jimmy (August 2011)

Janey and Jimmy (August 2011)

And now, I must close with the correct musical accompaniment.