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Pasta e Fagioli
This is a slightly nontraditional version of the classic Italian soup--just as good but more visually resplendent. Serve hot as an i primi to 6.
In a large saucepan, fry the onions, carrots, and peppers in the oil over medium heat--until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Add the ham, basil or pesto, garlic, oregano, and mint. Stir for a few minutes, then add the drained tomatoes (reserving juice). Cook at a fairly high heat, stirring, until the mixture is a thick sauce, crushing the tomatoes with the spoon as they cook. This always takes longer than you think--as much as 10 minutes.
Add the reserved tomato juice, stock, and kidney beans, with or without their sauce, your choice). Bring to a boil, reduce heat, cover, and simmer for 30 minutes. At this point, you can refrigerate until you are ready to serve.
When ready to serve, degrease the soup and return it to a boil. Add the pasta and boil gently until it is al dente--about 6 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Stir in the mushrooms, cover, and simmer for 5 minutes. Then stir in the shredded basil or parsley, ladle into bowls, garnish with the green onions and a drizzle of olive oil. Pass the parmesan separately.