Let's just say that this stuff is too good to let alone, especially if you are a vegetarian (or mostly-vegetarian) who is not particularly into soy-based meat substitutes. In this case, the obvious choice for substance is beans.
Beans are awesome. Beans are cheap. Beans are easy. You could easily live off beans, rice, and fresh vegetables. It would cost almost nothing and still taste fresh and new and delicious.
Things you can make with beans:
-refrieds, with either pinto or black beans
-bean soup, especially thick black bean with corn and maybe squash or sweet potato
-or soupe au pistou: brothy vegetable soup with white beans and pesto
-bean salads with lots of vinaigrette and red onion and mustard and parsley
-beans cooked in red wine, with toast and any fresh herbs you can get your hands on
-beans in burritos, enchiladas, tostadas, nachos, salsas
-baked beans with molasses
For this batch, I really wanted to recreate the same texture of the version we had in Venice. Clearly, you always want to recreate whatever you ate in Venice, right? Maybe not the beer. Everything else, though, is pretty much up for grabs. So. In Venice, the beans were totally pureed and smooth and a little thin, like the refried beans you get, blitzed and covered with melted cheese, in some Mexican restaurants. Ok; we can approximate this texture even without a decent blender, as beans are particularly vulnerable to being mashed with the back of a spoon.
The pasta was a variety I'd never eaten before: ditalini. These are tube pasta about the diameter of regular standard macaroni, but only a quarter inch or so long. This part of the variation is even easier to achieve: just use ditalini! Of course, I couldn't find actual ditalini. I could find tubetti, though--exactly the same cut, but smaller in diameter, like the pasta in boxed gross mac and cheese--so I used those. No problem. The result was a little denser, but really, dense and filling was what I was after.
pot of white (canellini) beans w/bay leaf
half bag of tubetti or ditalini
lots of garlic
broth or water
splash dry vermouth
dried oregano, salt, pepper
Soak and cook your beans in advance, like you do.
Cook your pasta at an appropriate moment during the bean process.
Chop your onion, garlic, and poblano. The poblano may seem a little odd here, but it definitely makes the end result more vegetable-savory as well as spicy. Be sure to chop everything really finely, for as smooth a bean mix as possible.
Warm your pan; throw in some olive oil; add the onion, garlic, and pepper. Stir to get everything good and oily. You want to use a bit more olive oil here than you might use for pasta sauces and etc: olive oil is actually a flavor in the finished product. Or you can use olive oil to finish servings; whatever. Add a little oregano or maybe marjoram or sage to give the beans some herbaciousness. Cook, stirring occasionally, until everything is soft and clearly ready for action.
Add your drained beans. You can either mash them before you add them, or mash them in the pan. I myself am lazy and so generally do things right in the pan. Add a little broth, tap water, or bean soaking water, plus a good shot of vermouth, and stir everything together to cook. It's shockingly like making refried beans, isn't it? I just use refried beans with totally different starches.
Let things cook together for a good five or ten minutes, or until they reach a happy medium. I mean, consistency. Salt and pepper. Lots of pepper is great with things as unctuous as beans.
Is everything done? Mix the beans with your drained pasta. Proportions here should be about half and half for maximum comfortfoodia. I had a little too much pasta, but whatever; it will be delicious anyway. You can also add some grated parmesan and stir it in, if you so desire. It's also good with no cheese; the flavors are already pretty complex, considering the pepper, herbs, and vermouth.
Finish with chopped fresh parsley and (more) parmesan. Gracious me, it is delicious! It cost about sixty cents, or maybe seventy, with the cheese! It is extremely filling! You can drink lots of valpolicella with it, and maybe eat a radicchio salad! It's almost like being in Venice, except for the lack of canals and cheerful waiters who spontaneously refill your glass after you knock it off the table. In this case, you have to go get your own glass. Such hardship!