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Together We Cook: Kensington’s Caregiver Culinary Corner

As part of our Monthly Caregiver Series, we are delighted to partner with Dr. Annie Fenn, founder of Brain Health Kitchen. Each month, Dr. Fenn will share with us recipes that we can make at home that encourage brain health…and taste delicious as well!

This month’s featured recipe is:
Pasta e Fagioli

It’s also comforting to know that each steaming bowl of pasta e fagioli checks off many of the brain-healthy food groups proven to reduce Alzheimer’s risk. Unlike minestrone soup, which is another hearty Italian soup made mostly of vegetables, this soup reduces prep time by using just a few veggies: carrots, onions, and garlic. Beans are another brain-healthy food group (described in the MIND diet study) and a food group common to all five Blue Zones on earth—pockets of dementia-free centenarians who live long, healthful lives. The MIND diet also recommends eating whole grains every day. If you love pasta as much as I do, I encourage you to seek out whole-grain brands that you like, which are also perfect for this soup because they are rich in fiber and hold their shape well after being frozen and reheated. 

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 medium carrots scrubbed and coarsely chopped, about 1 cup

1 small onion finely chopped, about 1 cup

1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste

2 large cloves minced garlic, about 1 tablespoon total

4 cups of vegetable or chicken broth

3 cups cooked gigante beans rinsed well if canned

2 cups Marinara sauce

¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes

1 2-inch Parmesan rind (optional)

2/3 cup small whole-grain pasta such as orzo or ditalini

2 cups chopped kale leaves fresh or frozen and quickly thawed by rinsing hot water

Freshly ground pepper to taste

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese to top

Instructions:

  1. Warm the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. When it starts to shimmer, add the carrots, onion and a pinch of the salt, and sauté for 8 to 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the garlic and sauté for another 30 seconds until fragrant, being careful not to let it burn.
  2. Add the broth, beans, marinara sauce, red pepper flakes, the remaining salt, and Parmesan rind (if using). Bring to a boil and reduce the heat to a simmer. Cover with the lid askew, and cook at a low simmer, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes until the soup is thick enough to coat the beans.
  3. Add the kale and the pasta and continue to simmer for 5 to 8 minutes until the pasta is al dente, or cooked through but still chewy, not soft.
  4. Taste and season to your liking with salt and freshly ground pepper. Serve hot with a spoonful of grated Parmesan, if using. When the soup is gone, discard the Parmesan rind.

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