“Okay so I like pasta,” Katie Stelmanis confesses. “I live for pasta actually.” Otherwise known as the hypnotic and otherworldly Austra, the rising electronic artist and singer has Italian in her blood and calls Corso Italia, a cozy and very Italian neighbourhood in Toronto, home – so it makes sense she’s harnessed a flare for the cuisine.
Austra’s new album, Hirudin, is a collection of brutally honest and therapeutic tales of love, loss and moving on. Pairing Stelmanis’s operatic voice and danceable production, it’s her strongest offering to date.
With its atmospheric and upbeat sensibilities, Hirudin also makes for the perfect soundtrack to accompany your next kitchen adventure. So pop on Austra’s latest, roll up your sleeves and prepare to turn some basic ingredients into a little taste of Italy as Stelmanis breaks out her nonna’s Pasta e Fagioli recipe for us.
“As an adult, I’m constantly chasing those flavours,” Stelmanis tells us about her love for the dish. “My nonna used to make [pasta e fagioli] every summer when my big Italian family (around 30 of us) would all cram into my rich uncle’s cottage. I think my version is actually better than hers, because she would use canned beans [and I use dried]. There is, of course, no other dish I could even comprehend cooking as well as she could. She turned her back garden in Toronto into a small farm and made absolutely everything from scratch.”
Pasta e Fagioli
8 oz. dried medium white beans (such as borlotti), soaked overnight if possible
Finely grated Parmesan, crushed red pepper flakes, and crusty bread (for serving)
Soak 8 oz. of dried borlotti beans overnight.
Bring them to a boil in their soaking water (with onion, garlic, celery, carrot, olive oil, salt, rosemary).
In the meantime, fry finely diced onion, celery and carrot in A LOT of olive oil—almost submerged in it.
When completely soft (could take an hour) add half a 28oz can of peeled plum tomatoes and continue to cook.
When the beans are ready, remove the aromatics and add the beans to the veggies, including as much bean water as needed for consistency. Reserve a cup of beans with some water and blend it up. Add to the larger pot so the broth is creamy.
Bring to a boil and then add the ditalini, or any really tiny pasta.
It’s ready as soon as the pasta is cooked to your liking. Season and serve with lots of parmesan!