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Pasta Fizol

(Slovenian pasta-bean soup)

Hearty, substantial, and stick to the ribs, this Slovenian specialty from the Primorska region (closest to Italy and its sister Pasta e fagioli) is totally thick with beans and pasta bits in a smoky, zingy broth. It is traditionally served with a dry white or rosé wine. Serve hot as a meal to 4 people.

Garnish: minced parsley

Drain the soaked beans, then put in a large pot with water to cover by 3 inches. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer until tender (from 30-60 minutes, depending on the size of the bean). Do not drain!

In another pot, cook the pasta bits in boiling, salted water until just tender. Drain and rinse in cold water, then reserve.

In a saucepan, heat the 3 Tablespoons of oil, then fry the cubed ham for a minute or so. Add the chopped onion and fry until yellow. Stir in the flour and cook for a minute. Stir in the garlic and paprika off the flame, to release the flavor of the paprika, then stir in the tomato paste and whisk in a cup or so of hot water until the sauce is smooth. Pour this sauce into the undrained beans, then add the pasta. Season with the bay leaf, marjoram, and pepper, then bring the soup to a boil and cook for 10 minutes or more. The consistency of the soup should be quite thick.

When ready to serve, salt to taste, then stir in vinegar. Ladle into bowls and garnish with minced parsley.