But my thoughts immediately went to another variety, the speckled red-and-white beans known as Roman or borlotti beans.
These unusual beans were the foundation for a special soup my late mother recalled fondly from her Cleveland childhood but had trouble describing. My mother's mystery bean soup turned out to be a delicious variation of pašta fižol, in which the beans are pureed before adding the pasta--in this case, homemade square egg noodles Slovenians call bleki.
Borlotti beans are considered heirloom beans and can be hard to locate even in normal times. I did find some online--for a price. But my search pulled up another bean variety that was described as a good alternative--in the same bean family, and with a similar red-and-white pattern.They even cost less than the borlotti beans and would arrive faster.
So I decided to take a chance. When the beans arrived, I was struck by the vivid and distinct pattern.
I also learned they had a fascinating international pedigree: Sold by a Canadian company, imported by a company in New Jersey and grown in Kyrgyzstan--from a strain of pinto beans first developed in the United States in the 1980s!
A few days later, I decided to make traditional pašta fižol, using the un-pureed recipe I had made originally. It just happened to be Trubar Day, a fitting time to celebrate my Slovenian heritage.
Naturally, I had to make a few more pandemic-required adjustments. Instead of bacon or pancetta, I used the only smoked meat we had available: Italian chicken sausage. Catsup instead of tomato paste. And store-bought Italian dried pasta, since I didn't have the time or energy for handmade bleki.
Despite the substitutions and the pasta shortcut, the dish was a success. Those Apache beans (seen in the before-and-after photos below) seemed to be a more than adequate substitute for borlotti beans. Their pretty colors were still faintly visible after cooking and the flavor was rich and slightly sweet.
I couldn't wait to use them again!
|After: Apache beans, cooked|
|Before: Apache beans, dried|
Pašta Fižol (with pandemic substitutions)
1 lb. dried
2-3 T. olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
2 T. flour
2 t. paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 c. hot water
2 t. marjoram
1 bay leaf
1/2 t. pepper
salt to taste
2 t. vinegar
parsley to garnish
For detailed cooking instructions, see the original post: https://slovenianroots.blogspot.com/2012/05/slovenian-dinner-week-week-12-pasta.html