Chicken Dinners: Chicken Pasta e Fagioli with Smoked Paprika

Yvonne Ruperti

I've been eating the vegetarian version of this Italian dish for years. Pasta e fagioli simply means "pasta with beans." An old ex-boyfriend's mother turned me on to this simple, easy to make, and satisfying dish, as she made it for the family almost weekly. Kidney beans and canned tomatoes are simply flavored mostly with garlic and a bit of chili flakes (sometimes also onion, sometimes also oregano), and then cooked pasta shells are stirred in to finish the soup-like dish.

As much as I like the classic, I've gotten a little bored with it, so I took the core ingredients and added a little flair. To start, this wasn't going to be meatless anymore. I fried up cubes of tasty pancetta, tossed in onions and garlic, and then quick cooking ground chicken. (Why not beef? Aside from this being a chicken post, the combo of beef, tomatoes, and kidney beans is too similar to a standard quick chili.) In went the tomatoes, the beans, and some extra broth for cooking the pasta directly in the soup.

The flavor still needed a little something more, so I pulled out my favorite tomato sauce secret spice: smoked paprika. I always sprinkle some into my meatless sauces. Its meaty, umami flavor was exactly the touch, even if a fusion touch, that I was looking for.