While the rest of the country broils in heat, Northern California’s Wine Country has enjoyed lovely cool mornings and evenings, perfect for cooking up and eating big bowls of   peasant soups.

    If you’re trying to stretch your budget – and use up some of those delicious veggies from the farmers market – there’s nothing like a hearty bean soup.

    This recipe comes from Carrie Brown of the Jimtown Store in Alexander Valley, who sells a delicious selection of Rancho Gordo beans. Pasta Fazool is Italian slang for pasta cooked with fagioli (beans.)

    I made a big batch of this soup the other night in my slow cooker, substituting baby lima beans instead of the cannellinis. To cook it in the slow cooker, simply sauté the veggies, then throw them in  with the beans, tomatoes, stock and oregano. Cook on high for four hours or on low for 8 hours. Then cook the pasta separately and add  it   at the end with the parsley. Yum!  
   
    Pasta Fazool
    Makes 6 to 8 servings
    1/4 pound diced apple-smoked bacon (preferably Hobbs)
    1/2 cup finely diced sweet onion
    1/4 cup finely diced celery
    1/4 cup finely diced carrot
    2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
    1 tablespoon good quality olive oil
    3/4 cup diced Roma tomatoes or canned crushed tomatoes with juice
    1/2 pound Rancho Gordo Cannellini beans, soaked 4-6 hours
    4 cups homemade chicken stock or your favorite canned chicken stock
    6-8 cups water, if necessary
    1/2 teaspoon Rancho Gordon dried Mexican oregano, or 1 tablespoon fresh oregano, chopped
    1 cup dried pasta (little tubes or broken farfalle noodles)
    1 tablespoon fresh Italian parsley, chopped
    — Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
    — Da Vero Meyer Lemon Olive Oil, to drizzle
    — Vella Dry Jack cheese, grated, to taste
   
    In a large, heavy-bottomed soup pot, saute bacon until browned. Remove bacon from pot with slotted spoon and set aside. Discard all but 1-2 tablespoons bacon fat and add 1 tablespoon olive oil (or start with 3-4 tablespoons olive oil if you are not using bacon).
    Over medium heat, saute onions, celery, carrots and garlic until soft and onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add tomatoes, beans, stock and oregano and return bacon to the pot. Simmer over medium heat until beans are tender, 35-45 minutes. (Cooking time may vary depending on freshness of beans.) You may add water if necessary. Add pasta and continue cooking until al dente. Remove from heat, stir in the parsley and allow the fazool to stand for 10 minutes before serving, to concentrate the flavors. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
    To serve: Drizzle individual bowls with Da Vero Meyer Lemon olive oil, and sprinkle grated cheese on top.