Bacon is one of my favorite foods, it adds a delicious flavor to beans and stews, it adds that salty crunch with sweet pancakes and it even adds quite a distinct texture to cookies (its true, I made bacon chocolate chip cookies last Christmas) but that's neither here nor there. The problem I have with bacon is the size of the package it comes in. Most recipes called for 4-6 strips of bacon leaving a sizable amount of unused bacon. I have to admit, freezing stuff isn't currently an option in my house. I freeze a couple of slices of bacon or an extra piece of chicken and then forget about it until it is unrecognizingly covered in ice crystals.
So my only alternative with leftover bacon is to use it in a number of recipes that are different enough from each other to not taste like we're eating bacon all week. In my search for a second use of bacon (since the potato chowder), I found a recipe for Pasta e Fagioli. This soup promised to taste "very similar to Olive Garden's soup." Joey assures me that this is not true. This soup was really tasty--but in Joey's words "Olive Garden's soup has two colors of beans which change the taste and it's beefier." Indeed--every soup that has beef as one of the ingredients is beefier than this one ;).
This soup was posted by someone else..who you ask? I don't have that in front of me...oops. It is really easy to make and tastes great. This recipe makes a LOT of soup, so you may either want to cut the recipe in half or do that thing people call "freezing" for a rainy day.
Pasta and Bean Soup
6 slices bacon, diced *I recently discovered that a serrated bread knife is a great tool for cutting up bacon*
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 15 oz can diced tomatoes
2 14oz cans cannellini beans, drained *or 1 can red kidney beans and 1 can cannellini beans
1 10oz package frozen spinach, thawed for 2-3 minutes so it's not in a huge brick
6 C chicken broth
3 C water
1 8oz can tomato sauce
3 t Italian seasoning
1 scant t cilantro
1 t salt
1 t pepper
1 t oregano
8oz small pasta of your choice, uncooked *I used this new mini rotini that was on sale
1. Heat a very large heavy pot over medium heat. Add bacon and fry until just crisp. Add onion and sauté until soft (about 8 minutes). Add garlic and sauté an additional 2 minutes.
2. Add all other ingredients except pasta to the pot. Simmer for 30-40 minutes stirring occasionally.
3. After simmering, bring soup to a boil. Add pasta and cook until al dente as shown on the pasta directions. Serve with bread.