Whaddya get when you cross American chop suey with pasta e fagioli? Italian-American chop suey! No ground beef here, we’re talking sausage with San Marzanos,  a bell pepper plus some Italian long hots for heat, white beans, rosemary, thyme, red wine and a dollop of ricotta on top to make it nice-nice. ’tis the season for something warming, so andiamo–let’s go!


2 cans cannellini beans (small white beans are also fine), rinsed and drained
1/2 pound pasta (I love Sclafani double elbows a.k.a. cellentani)
1 large sweet onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, pressed
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 pound Italian sausage (’round here, I love Longhini)
1 red bell pepper
2 Italian long hot peppers
1 28 oz. can San Marzano tomatoes (Cento is my brand of choice–buy whole ones and crush them between your fingers like the skulls of your enemies, HA HA HA!)
1/2 the 28 oz. can water, 1/4 can red wine
1 8 oz. can tomato sauce (such as Tuttorosso)
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
pepper to taste
1 sprig fresh rosemary
a handful of sprigs of fresh thyme
whole milk ricotta to dollop on top of each bowl you serve

In a large pot, saute onion in olive oil with crushed red pepper flakes, rosemary and thyme till onions are golden. Add garlic. Add sausage, breaking up into small pieces as it cooks. *While you’ve got this going, bring a separate pot of water to a boil to cook your pasta.* Add peppers as the sausage is cooking. When sausage is completely cooked, crush each tomato between your fingers and add all the liquid from the can. Fill this can halfway with water and another quarter of the way with red wine. Add to pot along with the small can of tomato sauce, salt and pepper. Simmer 15 minutes or so. Add beans to warm, then add cooked pasta. Serve with a generous spoonful of ricotta and Pecorino Romano, if you like. Fresh parsley is always nice, too.

Found a cure for the colder weather right heah, amici–I promise this! Stay toasty!

My mom, a.k.a. Janey, had a bad case of laryngitis this past week. We come from a long line of chiacchierone (chatterboxes), so imagine what it’s like NOT TO TALK–not even whisper! Apparently, that makes it worse. It’s almost like trying to speak while sitting on your hands (another genetic affliction, HA HA). I thought it would be a good time to make some pasta fazool, or pasta e fagioli, if we’re being proper and not speaking in the dialect.

Mine is a riff on one of Giada’s recipes. Funny sidebar about Giada while we’re talking about my mom: you may have noticed “Jane” isn’t an Italian name. So, Poppy’s parents, who emigrated here in the early 1900s, called my mom “Giadi”–rhymes with Marie.

Little Giadi

Little Giadi had that touch of mischief in her then, and still displays it proudly now, at age 77. I’m happy to report her voice has returned today. Was it the magic of my pasta fazool? I’ll never know. What I do know is we both really like this recipe. So, andiamo–let’s get cookin’!


4 sprigs fresh thyme
1 large sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 carrots (4 if they’re smaller, as the organic ones often are), crinkle-cut…this is how we roll in ma famiglia!
2 stalks celery, diced
1 medium sweet onion, chopped
1 pound chicken sausage (local folks, please try the sun-dried tomato version at Lino’s Market in Durham)
4 cloves garlic, pressed
5 cups chicken stock (my current favorite is Kitchen Basics stock in a box)
1 cup Meridian chardonnay or dry white wine (I very much like to cook with Meridian and don’t mind drinking it, either!)
2 (14.5-ounce) cans white beans, drained and rinsed—my fave are small white beans from Goya, cannellini beans are another good choice, just a little bigger
1 cup of your favorite small-bite-sized pasta, uncooked: I used Sclafani cavatelli, but like Barilla pipette, too
Freshly ground black pepper
½ – 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (I frequently use Aleppo pepper)

You’ll want to have some grated Pecorino Romano on hand for serving, too.

In a large saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Add the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Saute till the onions are tender, about 3 minutes. Add sausage (casings removed), cook and break into small pieces as you go.

Once the sausage has cooked, add broth, wine, beans and herbs–just toss the sprigs of thyme and rosemary right in there with the bay leaf. You’ll remove them after the flavor has cooked in a bit. Bring to a boil over high heat, add pasta and then decrease the heat to a simmer for the amount of time the pasta needs to cook. See package directions based on the shape you choose. Discard the herbs.

Add freshly ground black pepper and crushed red pepper to taste. Serve with Pecorino Romano.

Poppy, Janey and Nanny (1979) at 216. My mom in this picture is the same age I am today.